SALEM - After losing a comfortable lead and ultimately the game to rival West Branch on Friday, Salem came into Tuesday's contest hoping for a win and hoping to make better decisions. The Quakers did both, using the latter to get the former done in a 64-57 victory over Struthers at the John C. Cabas Gymnasium.
"We did everything tonight that we didn't do on Friday," Salem coach Rich Hart said. "We took better shots and we played smart basketball. We made better decisions which was our point of emphasis coming in here tonight."
The Quakers' improved decision-making led to a 18-12 advantage after one complete quarter. Ryan Bush set the pace with eight points in the opening period. Bush would go on to score a game-high 26 despite being held to just two points in the second quarter.
Unfortunately for Struthers, Trent Kenreigh picked up where Bush left off. He dropped in two field goals and two from the line for six points in the second. Kenreigh also blocked a shot. He too finished with double digits, chipping in 18.
The Wildcats outdid Salem, 14-13, in the second quarter, but the Quakers were able to take a 31-26 edge into the half.
Bush rediscovered his scoring touch in the third with 13 points including a pair of 3-pointers. Kenreigh added six to help Salem to a 52-43 lead after three complete.
"Zach and Trent both had great games, but everybody played a part in this win," Hart said. "Brandon Webb did a good job of leading us on the floor and our bench stepped up. Mike Madison, Brayden (Myers), Zach Penick all came in and made plays. Blake Veglia had the big steal at the end for us, and Anthony Shivers and Max Wolfgang, our post players, played good inside. This was a team effort and a total team win tonight."
The Wildcats made it interesting in the fourth quarter as Struthers cut the Quakers' lead to three with 32.7 seconds left in the game. Jake Jacubec scored six of his total 20 in the frame, and Jordan Sapp, who would score 18 with six 3-pointers, hit two from long distance. That's as close as the Wildcats would get. Two successful free throws by Webb made it a two-possession game with 20 seconds remaining. Veglia's steal with just six seconds left and a buzzer-beating layup by Zach Ecomomous sealed Struthers fate.
"Struthers shoots the ball so well that even a big lead is never safe," Hart said. "They can score a lot points in a short time. Jake Jacubec is just a heck of a player and Jordan Sapp is a great shooter. Struthers is never out of a game."
Had the Quakers iced all their free throws in the fourth, Struthers' late-game rally wouldn't have mattered much. Before Myers sank his two, Salem had missed five straight from the line.
"If make our foul shots earlier, we wouldn't have had anything to worry about at the end," Hart said. "Still, we didn't fold. I was proud of the way we kept fighting and bounced back with a win tonight."
The Quakers are 2-1 and next play at Marlington on Friday. Salem then faces always-tough East Liverpool at home on Tuesday.
The Salem J.V. squad found itself in the opposite position as their varsity counterparts. The reserve Quakers chipped away at a Struthers to lead to trail by three with seconds remaining, but the rally stalled and they fell, 40-36.
SALEM: 18 13 21 12 - 64
STRUTHERS: 12 14 17 14 - 57
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 10-3-26, Trent Kenreigh 7-2-16, Brandon Webb 2-26, Brandon Myers 1-0-2, Zach Ecomomous 1-0-2, Max Wolfgang 2-1-5, Anthony Shivers 3-2-8. TEAM TOTALS: 26, 10-16, 64.
STRUTHERS SCORING: Jake Jacubec 8-2-20, Jordan Sapp 6-0-18, Joe Wilaj 2-3-7, Tommy Kimbrough 3-0-6, Austin Grewe 1-0-2, Christian Walker 20-04. TEAM TOTALS: 22, 5-6, 57.
THREE POINTERS: Salem 2 (Ryan Bush), Struthers 8. (Sapp 6, Jacubec 2).