Quakers carve up Branch

Salem’s Zach Bezon splits West Branch’s Blake Glista and T.J. DeShields on Friday night at Cabas Gymnasium. (Photo by Gary Leininger)

SALEM — Despite Salem and West Branch not being among the Northeastern Buckeye Conference leaders, Friday’s game between the two rivals featured all the intensity of a first-place battle.

After watching an 11-point lead slip away, the Quakers surged ahead with a furious run midway through the fourth quarter and held on to defeat the Warriors 63-56 on homecoming night at Cabas Gymnasium.

The Quakers, who played in front of easily their biggest and most boisterous crowd of the season, improve to 8-9 overall and 4-7 in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference. The Warriors fall to 6-11, 1-10.

“The intensity tonight was unreal. I’ve never played in an atmosphere like that,” Salem senior Garrett Dickey said. “The Quaker Crazies were great; their support helped us tremendously.”

After hitting a rough patch in mid-to-late January, Salem has now reeled off three wins in a row.

“We’ve tried to get the tempo faster over the last week,” Salem coach Rich Hart said. “We’re much better when we can run. Our bench is also giving us some minutes so we’re able to pressure more in the full-court.”

The Warriors took their first lead of the night when freshman Nick Pidgeon flung in a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the third quarter to make it 39-38. The shot capped a third quarter that saw West Branch wipe out a 24-13 halftime deficit by shooting 11-for-15 overall and 4-of-5 from three-point range.

“We were getting clean looks in the first half, they just didn’t go in,” West Branch coach Randy Montgomery said. “We finally got some shots to start falling for us.”

Much like their first win over West Branch in December, the Quakers buckled down in the face of adversity. An intentional foul on Chase Ackerman helped spark a 6-0 spurt in the opening to minutes of the fourth to push Salem in front 44-39.

After West Branch closed it to 44-43, the Quakers took off on a decisive 13-1 run. Dickey got the excitement started with an “and-1” followed by a tough drive for two. On the next possession, he sprawled on the floor to secure a steal, which led to a Turner Johnson putback, making it 51-43 with 3:25 left. Dickey followed with yet another steal and layup. Chase Ackerman capped everything off with a dunk to make it 57-44 with 2:13 left, sending the Salem crowd into a frenzy. West Branch got within two possessions in the final minute, but the Quakers were able hang on.

“We tried to apply a lot of pressure and it seemed to really pay off,” Dickey said. “We were able to get out and run in the fourth quarter.”

Dickey scored 18 points to lead the Quakers (including nine in the fourth quarter). Mitch Davidson had 16 points, while Jon Gerace added 13 points and seven rebounds. Turner Johnson also provided some nice hustle and defense off the bench.

“Dickey hit some big buckets in the fourth quarter and we got some big rebounds from Gerace,” Hart said. “Turner came in and did a super job off the bench. Then you have Josh Young who comes off the bench and hits two big free throws. If all those things don’t go our way we don’t win the game.”

West Branch got a big effort from T.J. DeShields with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Brett Butcher added 16 points. The Warriors shot 2-for-11 in the first quarter when they fell behind 11-4.

“We need to get over that hump,” Montgomery said. “We’re close, but we need to get over the hump. We need to get some experience and learn how to close out games.”

Game notes

¯Samantha Wilson was crowned Salem’s winter homecoming queen at halftime.

¯Salem won the jayvee game 54-21. Trey Double had 14 points for the Quakers. Cohen Lamp had eight points for the Warriors.

¯Salem welcomes NBC co-leader Alliance to Cabas Gymnasium Tuesday, while West Branch hosts Marlington.

WEST BRANCH: 4-9-26-17–56

SALEM:             11-13-14-25–63

WEST BRANCH SCORING: Brett Butcher 8-0-16, Reese Leone 0-3-3, Blake Glista 2-0-6, T.J. DeShields 7-5-22, Brandon Zuchowski 2-0-4, Michael Boosz 1-0-2, Nick Pidgeon 1-0-3. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 8-13: 56.

SALEM SCORING: Garrett Dickey 8-1-18, Jon Gerace 4-2-13, Zach Bezon 1-0-2, Mitch Davidson 6-3-16, Chase Ackerman 3-1-7, Braydon Gibson 0-0-0, Robbie Sarginger 1-0-3, Josh Young 0-2-2, Turner Johnson 1-0-2, Zack Martin 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 24, 9-12: 63.

Three-point goals: West Branch 6 (DeShields 3, Glista 2, Pidgeon), Salem 6 (Gerace 3, Dickey, Davidson, Sarginger).