Quakers make a statement
SALEM — The Salem girls basketball team had little time to catch their breath after wrapping up the Eastern Buckeye Conference title Saturday.
With the live camera’s of MyYTV’s Game of the Week rolling, the Quakers welcomed Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference champion Columbiana to Cabas Gymnasium on Monday for a possible district tournament preview.
When the dust cleared, the bigger, deeper Quakers emerged with a 52-43 victory in a game that featured plenty of high energy and bouts of sloppiness on both sides.
“It was a big game and I thought we came out and responded well,” Salem forward Kyla Jamison said. “We prepared a lot for this game and we really executed our defense well. We showed them what we’re about.”
The Quakers improve to 16-5, while the Clippers fall to 17-4. With Salem earning the top seed in the Struthers Div. III district and Columbiana seeded fourth, both teams knew they could be seeing each other again in a couple of weeks.
“It was huge to see them once in case we play again in the tournament,” Salem coach Vince Nittoli said. “We have a ton of film on them, but it’s easier to get familiar with a team when you see them live. We wanted to see how we matched up with them on the court.”
The Quakers set the tone with their size and physicality, especially on defense. The normally high-powered Clippers were held to 15-for-49 shooting. Salem dominated the rebounding battle 43-19.
“The biggest thing for us tonight was teamwork and energy,” Jamison said. “When you work hard on the defensive end, it translates to the offensive end.”
Salem held explosive Columbiana point guard Kayla Muslovski to 14 points. Tessa Liggett also registered 14 points. Columbiana’s 43 points were the Clippers’ second-lowest total of the season.
“We’ve played a lot of really good offensive teams this year,” Nittoli said. “Every night we take the court, we take pride in our defense, especially at home. “We knew Columbiana had a very explosive offense and I’m proud of the way we matched up and weathered the storm.”
Jamison had another rock-solid night in the post with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Ellie Davidson was all over the boards and finished with 16 rebounds. Echo Mayer-Kutz added 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“Our game plan every night is to pound the ball inside,” Nittoli said. “Columbiana did a great job of pressuring our guards to try and limit those post opportunities, but when we got the ball inside we either scored or got fouled.”
The Quakers took a 28-18 lead into halftime and hit Columbiana with an 11-2 run right out of the gate in the third quarter. When Annie Davidson nailed a corner three, the lead stretched to 39-20 and the game looked on the verge of getting away from the Clippers.
Columbiana dug in the rest of the way and made Salem earn the victory. The Clippers held the Quakers to just eight points over the next 8:10 as they slowly whittled away at the lead.
With 2:50 left, Muslovksi finally got a three-pointer to drop as Columbiana sliced the deficit to 47-41.
However, the Quakers held firm the rest of the way and were able to close the game out at the free throw line.
“We knew Columbiana was going to make it extremely scrappy and that they weren’t going to go away,” Nittoli said. “We did a good job of making plays under pressure down the stretch to close it out.”
Columbiana coach Dave Crismon believes the way his team refused to quit will provide a confidence boost should there be a rematch.
“We could have given up, but we kept battling. I thought we did a better job of taking good shots as the game wore on,” Crismon said. “We can build on this because I saw that they were not going to quit and they believed they could win at the end.”
• Both team’s appeared tight during a frenetic first quarter that featured a boatload of miscues. The teams combined for 45 turnovers on the night.
• Columbiana will get an early look at Struthers Fieldhouse when the Clippers hit the road take on Struthers Wednesday. Salem closes the regular season at home against Springfield Wednesday.
• The Quakers showed their depth by rotating 10 players into the game to Columbiana’s seven.
• Salem won the JV game 45-13. Jenna McClish had 10 points for the Quakers. Jessica Himes had four points for the Clippers.
COLUMBIANA SCORING: Tori Long 0-0-0, Karissa Tringhese 1-0-2, Kayla Muslovski 6-1-14, Tessa Liggett 4-2-14, Grace Hammond 2-2-7, Kennedy Fullum 2-2-6, Madison Moser 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 7-15: 43.
SALEM SCORING: Jessica Slocum 0-0-0, Casey Johnson 1-6-8, Taylor Troy 0-0-0, Annie Davidson 2-0-5, Ellie Davidson 3-0-6, Paige Bailey 0-0-0, Hayden Carner 0-0-0, Echo Mayer Kutz 5-2-12, Jaden Hamilton 1-1-4, Kyla Jamison 6-4-17. TEAM TOTALS: 18, 13-22: 52.
Three-point goals: Columbiana 6 (Liggett 4, Muslovski, Hammond), Salem 3 (Annie Davidson, Hamilton, Jamison)