Quakers go South as second half opens
SALEM — The second half of the Eastern Buckeye Conference season didn’t go exactly how the Salem Quakers boys basketball team had envisioned on Friday. The Wildcats from Canton South led from tip-off to the final buzzer in knocking off the Quakers 61-47.
With the loss, the Quakers drop to 3-8 on the season, 3-4 in the EBC. The Wildcats improve to 4-8 overall, and now tie the Quakers with an identical 3-4 record in the EBC.
The loss is a particularly disappointing start to the second half of the season for the Quakers as they had hoped to move up in the very crowded EBC standings. The Quakers are right in the thick of the league race with no clear cut front-runner.
“We talked about going for a league championship,” Quakers coach Jeff Andres said. “Going into it, one game out going into the second round and anything can happen. We feel like on any given night we can beat any of the teams in the league if we play to our capabilities, make shots and do the things that we capable of.”
“I don’t think there is any dominant team in the league,” Andres said. “In talking with the other coaches, a lot of them feel the same way. Everybody is beating up on everybody.”
Adding insult to injury, the Quakers were focused on revenging a 50-31 loss back in December on the Wildcats home court. The Wildcats forced the Quakers into committing over 30 turnovers in that contest.
“We talked about that. That we owed them. They got us over at their place and they got us pretty good. We didn’t play particularly well,” Andres said. “We thought we had some good days of practice in preparation leading into this game, but their defensive pressure gave us some fits. Hats off to them, they did a good job.”
“We had lost five in a row,” an elated Wildcats coach Luke Conley explained. “We had high expectations for this team so we have been trying to get on the right track. So to take care of business on the road against a team that has been playing better was huge for us.”
The Wildcats grabbed an early lead in building an 11-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter. They slowly pulled away from the Quakers in the second frame as they built a 10-point lead at 28-18 with 42-seconds remaining in the first half. A late basket by Turner Johnson closed the margin to 28-20 at the intermission.
The key to the game was on full display to start the second half when the Quakers caused two quick Wildcat turnovers to start the half, but they failed to convert either miscue into points. Conversely, the Wildcats seemed to take advantage of every Quaker turnover and get a basket off of the mistakes.
“That was huge,” Andres said. “First possession of the second half Turner got a steal and a breakaway, I think we were three on one, we got two or three looks at it and we didn’t convert. They converted their fast breaks and odd-man situations and we didn’t. No doubt about it. I think that was definitely the difference in the game, to be honest.”
“When we have been really good, that’s what we have done,” Conley said. “We have been able to convert and play that pace. We have good athletes. That’s something that we have emphasized all year with ball pressure and getting up in the passing lanes.”
The Wildcats stretched their lead out to 11 points at 33-22 at the 3:52 mark of the third quarter following a putback basket by Luke Hattery. But the Quakers went into the final period with the momentum with Josh Young throwing up a long-range three-pointer at the buzzer to close the margin to 7 points at 39-32.
The Quakers got the home crowd really excited as they closed to within 6 points at 46-40 following a bucket by Josh Turner at the mid-point of the fourth quarter. However, that was as close as they got as the Wildcats went on a 9-2 run to make it 55-42 just two minutes later. The Wildcats closed the game connecting on 4 of 7 free throws to seal the game.
The Quakers will return to action on Tuesday when they travel to take on the Alliance Aviators in EBC play. The Wildcats do not play until next Friday when they play at Marlington.
C. SOUTH: 11-17-11-22–61
CANTON SOUTH SCORING: Chris Fontes 2-5-9, Sean Blackmon 12-9-33 , Riley James 0-0-0, Jalen Merriweather 0-0-0, Luke Hattery 4-0-8, Tyler Karovic 1-0-2, Justin Ickes 2-0-6, Myles Martin 1-0-3. TEAM TOTALS: 22, 14-21: 61.
SALEM SCORING: Hunter Griffith 0-0-0, Josh Young 6-3-18, Niko Walter 2-1-6, Turner Johnson 4-1-9, Trey Double 2-1-5, Cade Campolito 2-0-4, Luke Weignart 1-0-3, Caleb Stockman 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 18, 6-9: 47
Three-point goals: Canton South 3 (Justin Ickes 2, Myles Martin), Salem 5 (Josh Young 3, Niko Walter, Luke Weignart)