Ravens close book on Quakers
RAVENNA – The Salem boys basketball team last battled Ravenna on March 1, 2013, with the Quakers knocking off the Ravens 70-53 to advance to the district semifinals.
Exactly one year later, in the Division II sectional finals, the Ravens sang a much different tune.
Disadvantaged by size and speed, the Quakers displayed a powerful offense in the second quarter and led by seven at halftime, but the Ravens overpowered the Quakers in the fourth quarter and ended the Quakers’ season with a 54-46 victory at James L. Coll Gymnasium at Ravenna High School.
The Ravens (14-9) advance to play top-seeded Poland, which trounced Struthers 84-52 Saturday, in the Division II district semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Warren G. Harding High School.
Trailing by seven, the Ravens relied on a strong offense from Anthony Banks, who led the Ravens with 18 points, and Ty-Shawn Dukes, who scored 14.
“We just upped our defensive pressure in the second half to try to apply some more ball pressure,” Ravenna coach Jerome Starks said. “They turned the ball over and we gained the lead back. The adjustment was to get the ball to our bigs, which was to flash it in the middle and we did a good job of that.”
Having a height advantage in the form of 6-foot-8 senior Michael Boltz and 6-foot-8 junior Zac King also helped compared to last year as noted by senior Danny Miller, who contributed with eight points.
“It was a little easier this year since (Salem) had more bigger players last year,” Miller said. “Big-man wise, I thought that we were really good. King and Boltz have been great for us.”
The Quakers (6-14) clawed from a seven-point deficit in the first quarter from the Quakers’ top two scorers all season, senior Max Wolfgang and sophomore D.J. Pullie. The two, along with Mark Fredrickson, controlled the tempo of the second quarter and matched the speed of the Ravens and led by seven at halftime.
After halftime, the Quakers met with a refreshed Ravens offense and watched the lead slip, one thing Salem coach Rich Hart noted was trouble for the team all season long.
“We got in a stretch and it’s been a problem for us all year,” Hart said. “We would get a little ahead of ourselves and when the pressure gets on us, we don’t do a very good job of being able to get back in to what we’re trying to do. We needed to get the ball inside more, and that really hurt us in the second half.”
Wolfgang’s final game-high contribution of 21 points was praised by Hart along with the efforts of Fredrickson, Ryan Hoover and Andrew Dolphin.
“I’m really proud of the seniors, they played their heart out,” Hart said. “They’re a great group of kids, they played hard. They practice hard all the time, they’re just a good group of young men.”
Even more uplifting was the support and recognition given to Pullie, the team’s top scorer alongside Wolfgang in just his sophomore season.
Hart shared a poignant moment with Pullie after the game with high hopes of becoming one of the top scorers in Quakers history come his senior year.
“You had a great season, an amazing season as a sophomore” Hart said to Pullie. “Just think, that name on top of that board in there, you’re going to be right after it.”
Hart and the Quakers look forward to next season with confidence as Pullie looks to capitalize on a stellar sophomore season along with junior Mike Ciotti, the team’s top bench scorer, in a potential starting role.
“Our kids are enthusiastic and are going to work hard, and we’re going to be fine,” Hart said. “They got a desire to be better, and to be a basketball player, you got to work at it.”
Both Salem and Ravenna had one player foul out. Ryan Hoover of Salem and Michael Boltz of Ravenna both fouled out in the fourth quarter. Boltz also picked up a technical foul in the third quarter after hanging on the hoop following a slam dunk.
Ravenna previously advanced to district semifinals just twice in the past decade, having done so in 2006 and 2012.
Ravenna’s first meeting with Poland on March 4, 2011, resulted in a 61-53 loss in the second round of the Division II district tournament.
SALEM SCORING: D.J. Pullie 4-6-16, Mark Fredrickson 2-0-5, Jake Bezon 0-0-0, Alex Weikart 0-0-0, Andrew Dolphin 2-0-5, Garrett Dickey 0-0-0, Mike Popa 1-2-4, Trey Toothman 0-0-0, Ryan Hoover 1-3-5, Max Wolfgang 7-6-21. TOTALS: 17, 17-22: 56.
RAVENNA SCORING: Anthony Banks 4-9-18, Warren Bradley 4-4-12, Ben Morgan 0-0-0, Danny Miller 2-3-8, Logan Swartz 1-0-3, Ty-Shawn Dukes 7-0-14, Zac King 1-0-2, Michael Boltz 3-1-7. TOTALS: 22, 17-27: 64
Three-pointers: Salem 5 (Pullie 2, Dolphin, Fredrickson, Wolfgang), Ravenna 3 (Banks, Miller, Swartz).