SALEM - The Alliance Aviators left Salem's John C. Cabas Gymnasium on Tuesday they same way they arrived - undefeated and all smiles.
The Aviators outdid the Quakers on the boards, hauling down 40 to Salem's 28, and utilized the second-chance buckets to pull away in the second half en route to a 71-60 victory - their 11th overall and sixth in the NBC.
"Rebounds hurt us, especially offensive rebounds," Salem coach Rich Hart said. "(Alliance) would miss and get three or four more chances. They had four-straight tip-ins. That's four times we made them miss, four possessions we should have had, but we couldn't get come up with the rebound."
If the Quakers' inability to rebound hurt then their inability to come through at the line was practically fatal. Salem finished 12-of-21 at the charity stripe, missing eight of 13 foul shots in the first half.
"We can't miss free throws like we did tonight," Hart added. "If we make our free throws we could have easily been tied at the half. Instead were down by nine."
Salem was behind 39-30 at the break after trailing 20-17 at the end of the opening quarter. It could have been worse. Alliance stormed out to a 12-2 lead just three minutes into the game, but the Quakers settled down and into a rhythm, answering with a 11-2 run of their own.
"It's hard to win on the road in the NBC and we knew Salem would play us hard," Alliance coach Larry Kukura said. "In that first half, we gave up too many transition baskets and layups. We played better defense in the second half and had much better ball control. We also took better shots. In the third and fourth quarters, we took percentage shots and not quick shots. We played better defense in the second half too. Salem did a good job of getting transition points in the first two quarters, but we were able to wear them down and eventually slow them down in the second half."
One of the transition buckets was a dunk by Ryan Bush, who took a feed from Brendan Webb at mid-court and advantage of the open court. The dunk tied the game at 25 with 3:36 left in the first half. It was the first time since the tip-off that the Quakers stood on even ground with the Aviators.
Unfortunately for Salem, it was also the last. Alliance hit three 3-pointers in the third to distance itself and outscored Salem 18-13 in the third quarter to lead 57-43 with one quarter to go.
The Aviators led by as much as 20 in the third, but couldn't close the door. Salem won the fourth 17-14, but it was too little too late.
"I was a little disappointed in the way we closed the game," Kukura said. "We didn't finish as strong as I would have liked. When we get a big lead we tend to get sloppy with the ball. There are still a lot of things we need to work on and that's one of them."
Alliance had three players score double digits. Parrish Martin sank six from the field including three 3-pointers, and three from the line to post 18 on the night. Vern Martin also scored 18 and led the Aviators' rebounding efforts with 11.
Jalen Mays, Alliance's 6-foot-5 standout, finished with 17 points, two dunks, nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Quakers too had three players notch 10 or more points. Bush finished with a game-high 21 points. Trent Kenreigh chipped in 17 with a trio of 3-pointers, and Zach Penick came off the bench for 10. Anthony Shivers added nine points and Max Wolfgang pulled down nine rebounds.
"We went out and attacked the basket," Hart said. "We just didn't get the rebounds. We weren't used to their quickness. They would take a shot and we would turn around and they would be right there beside us. They did a good job of using their quickness against us."
Salem fell below .500 with the loss and now stands at 4-5 and 2-4 in the NBC. The Quakers travel to Louisville on Friday.
ALLIANCE: 20 19 18 14 - 71
SALEM: 17 13 13 17 - 60
ALLIANCE SCORING: Sam Cundiff 2-0-5, Parrish Martin 6-3-18, J.J. Kukura 2-2-5, Taurice Scott 2-0-4, Vern Martin 6-5-18, Jalen Mays 8-1-17. TEAM TOTALS: 27, 11-18, 71.
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 8-4-21, Trent Kenreigh 4-6-17, Zach Penick 5-0-10, Brooks Bezon 1-0-2, Max Wolfgang 0-1-1, Anthony Shivers 4-1-9. TEAM TOTALS: 22, 12-21, 60.
THREE POINTERS: Alliance 6 (P. Martin 3, Kukura, V. Martin, Cundiff), Salem 4 (Kenreigh 3, Bush).