Warriors have leg up on Quakers
BELOIT – The West Branch boys basketball team didn’t play like a team with 13 losses on the season, particularly when it came to arch rival Salem.
The Warriors used a 15-0 scoring run in the first quarter and kept the momentum to stun the Quakers 71-49 on Friday at West Branch Fieldhouse, the first night of a two-night stand between the rivals.
“It was a big one for us,” West Branch coach Lou Sellaroni said. “They worked hard, and it’s just nice to get something positive from everything they’ve done.”
The Warriors improved to 4-13 overall, and 2-11 in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference as it relied on a strong first quarter. The Warriors made key steals on defense, and beat the Quakers in the paint with strong offense from Jerian Thomas, who led the Warriors with 25 points.
“I just did what I needed to do,” Thomas said. “I had to go out there against our rivals and knock them down.”
Jake Evanoff also contributed strong in the first quarter, and scored 12 points. Kip DeShields and Dustin Greenawalt both scored 11 each as the Warriors kept momentum throughout the game.
“Things just fell into place for us,” Sellaroni said. “We made some big threes, made our fouls, and the little things are what helped us tonight.”
The Quakers (6-11, 5-7) got promising start from an early layup from Mike Ciotti, who started in place of the injured Max Wolfgang, but that early boost was taken away due in part to heavy pressure from the Warriors, inaccurate shooting and six fouls within just the first five minutes.
Salem coach Rich Hart noted missed opportunities from the Quakers as the Warriors took over.
“We hit the first bucket, then missed three or four easy layups,” Hart said. “Then they came back and we just didn’t have an answer for it.”
D.J. Pullie, who led the Quakers with 25 points, admitted the Quakers may have underestimated the Warriors.
“We figured we would’ve come in, push them down, and come out with the easy win,” Pullie said. “We didn’t expect them to dominate us like they did.”
Hart also looks to have a bigger scoring effort from the team which hurt them in the beginning of the season. Despite a strong effort from Ciotti with eight points, Pullie was the only Quaker in double-digits.
“Aside from D.J., we didn’t have a lot of scoring,” Hart said. “We need to have a better scoring effort from our players.”
The game taking place tonight at Salem was originally scheduled for Jan. 7. Sub-zero temperatures, however, forced that game to a Jan. 25 makeup date. However, another snowstorm pushed that makeup date back two weeks.
“We had the game at Salem pushed back twice,” Sellaroni said. “It wasn’t exactly what we were going for, but it was the only date both teams had available to squeeze in.”
The two-night stand marks a first for both Sellaroni, who has never had to face a team on back-to-back nights.
“We’ve faced different teams on consecutive nights, and we’ve faced the same team in quick time maybe early on in a tournament,” Sellaroni said. “We’ve never had to face the same team back-to-back so this is different for us. This is definitely the first time I have seen this.”
The Quakers will have a chance at redemption as the second half of the two-night stand takes place at Cabas Gymnasium, with junior varsity tipping off at 6 p.m.
“We have a good feeling knowing that we’ll be going back home tomorrow night and going for that win,” Hart said.
The 50/50 raffle prize was $70.
The Salem cheering section were decked out in togas during the game as part of their rivalry week. The same cheering section will dress in the theme of Harry Potter for tonight’s game.
The win for West Branch snapped a four-game losing streak. Its last victory was over Minerva 57-54 on Jan. 10, also its first Northeastern Buckeye Conference victory of the season.
Salem won the junior varsity game 41-38. Matt Weingart led the Quakers with 16 points, while Daniel Laut scored 11 for the Warriors.
WEST BRANCH: 20-23-17-11-71
SALEM SCORING: D.J. Pullie 8-4-24, Mark Fredrickson 0-0-0, Jake Bezon 0-0-0, Tyler Shaffer 0-2-2, Alex Weikart 0-0-0, Andrew Dolphin 0-0-0, Mike Ciotti 4-0-8, Mike Popa 2-0-4, Trey Toothman 1-0-3, Ryan Hoover 2-2-6, Carter Rose 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 18, 8-11: 49.
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Dustin Greenawalt 3-4-11, Kyle Zeigler 0-0-0, Matt Meiter 3-0-6, Jerian Thomas 9-4-25, Chipper Fuel 0-0-0, Jake Evanoff 4-3-12, Matt Heffinger 0-0-0, Kip DeShields 3-5-11, Jeremy Horny 2-0-4. TEAM TOTALS: 24, 18-26: 71.
Three-point goals: Salem 5 (Pullie 4, Toothman), West Branch 5 (Thomas 3, Evanoff, Greenawalt).