Marlington starting to turn things around
SALEM — Salem’s boys basketball team fought hard but ran into a Marlington squad currently playing as well as any team in the Eastern Buckeye Conference and dropped a 65-55 league decision to the Dukes at John A. Cabas Gymnasium Friday night.
With the win, Marlington, which began the season 1-4, has won nine of its past 13 games and is now 10-8 overall and 7-4 in the EBC. That includes two wins over Alliance. With the loss, Salem is now 5-13 overall and 3-8 in conference play.
“They (Marlington) were banged up at the beginning of the year but they are rolling right now and they’ve had some quality wins in a row,” said Salem head coach Jeff Andres. “There’s no doubt they’ve got some players.”
Marlington placed three cagers in double figures, led by guard Andrew Pucci with 20 points, including 15 in the second half, while teammates Blane Himmelheber and point guard Cameron Bennett added 18 and 14 points, respectively. Himmelheber also had 11 assists in Marlington’s offense which moved fluidly with quick passes throughout the game.
“The kids did a great job of moving the ball,” said Marlington head coach Nick Evanich. “Cameron Bennett does a great job of finding those gaps in the paint and Blane (Himmelheber) had 11 assists, so when you get that out of your point guard along with 18 points, you’re doing a great job. We attacked the paint and finished well.”
Salem was paced by long-range sharpshooter Josh Young with 20 points, which included making five of the Quakers’ seven three-pointers on the night. Niko Walter added 15 points, while Josh Lehwald had one of his best offensive games on the season and finished with eight points.
Salem, which trailed by eight points (31-23) at halftime, had a rough third quarter. Marlington, led by Pucci who had 11 points in the frame, including a reverse slam dunk, outscored the Quakers 18-11 in the quarter to take a 15-point (49-34) advantage after three.
“I thought Andrew Pucci had a big run to start the second half,” said Evanich.
Andres felt the Quakers’ scoring drought late in the second quarter and throughout the third period were the turning points in the game.
“Definitely that stretch just before halftime, we had cut it to two and they went on a 6-0 run, and then in the third quarter they went on a 14-3 run, and you put those two together and it’s a 20-3 run for them and we just couldn’t recover,” observed the Salem head coach.
The Marlington coach pointed to switching defenses against Salem as a key factor as well.
“The biggest difference was we got out of the half-court trap because we were not matching up well out of it,” said the Marlington coach of his team’s second-half surge. “We got out of that and went to half-court man-to-man and then we took care of business.”
Marlington took its largest lead of the game at 17 points (53-36) with 5:48 left but Salem played very well down the stretch and outscored the Dukes 19-12 in the remaining time but couldn’t overcome the large third-quarter deficit to lose by 10.
“The kids played hard and got after it,” said Andres. “That’s what I told them is I appreciate that effort for sure.”
Evanich felt another key was his team’s floor game. “We took care of the basketball,” said the Marlington mentor whose team only had seven turnovers in the game. “We didn’t give them easy runouts because we got a chance to score or get off a good shot on offense and then we got a chance to get back and defend,” he added.
Salem jumped out to a 9-3 lead to start the game following a trio of treys, including two by Josh Young and one by Niko Walter. But Marlington caught and passed the Quakers when Bennett converted a layup to give the Dukes at 10-9 advantage with 49 seconds left in the frame. Marlington led 12-11 at period’s end.
Marlington took as much as an eight-point (24-16) lead over Salem following two free throws by Connor Evanich with 3:55 showing before half. Salem used a three-pointer by Young and two hoops by Walter to cut into the Dukes’ lead 31-23 at the break.
Salem won the junior varsity battle, 51-48. Anthony Dimuzio led the Quakers with 13 points, while Kaleb Caldwell and Brock Young added 11 markers each. Nik Tortola had 18 points to lead the Dukes.
Salem returns to action Tuesday night when the Quakers travel to Columbiana for a non-league contest with the Clippers.
“They (Columbiana) struggled early but they’ve been a lot better as of late,” said Andres of the Clippers. “They’re pretty physical so we’re going to have to go over there ready to play, no doubt about it.”
SALEM SCORING: Hunter Griffith 0-0-0, Josh Young 6-3-20, Cade Campolito 1-0-2, Niko Walter 6-2-15, Luke Weingart 1-0-3, Turner Johnson 1-1-3, Josh Lehwald 4-0-8, Trey Double 0-0-0, Luke Duncan 0-0-0, Kaleb Caldwell 1-0-2, Jaren Snyder 0-0-0, Brock Young 0-0-0, Caleb Stockman 0-0-0, Caden Rohm 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 20 6-11-55.
MARLINGTON SCORING: Blane Himmelheber 7-1-18, Markavien Mason 1-4-6, Reece Kackley 0-0-0, Andrew Pucci 7-5-20, Nik Tortola 1-1-4, Jaydan Shreckengost 0-0-0, Ryan Cooley 0-0-0, Cameron Beachy 0-1-1, Cameron Bennett 7-0-14, Derek Nieman 0-0-0, Connor Evanich 0-2-2. TEAM TOTALS: 23-14-22 65.
Three-point goals: Marlington 5 (Himmelheber 3, Pucci, Tortola). Salem 7 (Young 5, Walter, Weingart).