Lions pull away from Quakers late

Minerva’s Connor Wright tries to put up a shot as Salem’s Chase Ackerman

MINERVA — Talented Minerva and Salem matched up in a hotly-contested varsity boys’ basketball game which featured six different lead changes in the Lions’ den Friday night.

But taller Salem, which led 48-46 after three periods, got into foul trouble in the fourth quarter and Minerva capitalized, outscoring the Quakers 25-8 in the frame as the Lions went on to a 71-56 Northeastern Buckeye Conference win.

“It was really a well-played high school game,” Salem coach Rich Hart said. “We just did not shoot the ball well enough. We only made one three-pointer and you can’t win if you only make one three.”

With the triumph, the NBC co-leading Lions improved to 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the NBC, while the Quakers are 4-4 overall and 2-3 in conference play.

“I thought late, maybe the last five minutes we got some stops and got some separation,” Minerva coach Shawn Green said. “The game was in the balance for both teams and whoever got the separation was going to win the game.”

Hart said Salem’s foul problems hurt the flow of the game for the Quakers.

“Obviously the foul trouble with Chase Ackerman and (point guard) Zach Bezon, our two starters really hurt us,” said Hart. “It’s tough to play without them.”

Another key to the outcome occurred from long range where the Lions hit eight three-pointers to Salem’s one.

Leading the Lions was senior standout Connor Wright with a game-high 24 points, including a pair of three-pointers, while teammate Brock Croston also had a big game with 22 points and a game-high three treys.

“I don’t like losing, so I like the ball in my hands at the end,” said Wright. “I don’t like missing at the end because I know we need them, and Brock (Croston) hit two really big threes to jump the lead out (in the fourth quarter) and Mitch (Myers) made three free throws and Brock also made his down the stretch. That was pretty clutch.”

Salem was led by 6-4 senior Mitch Davidson with 18 points, while 6-5 Chase Ackerman finished with 13 points before fouling out.

In the deciding fourth quarter, point guard Bezon and Ackerman, who had played a big role in the middle, fouled out. When Ackerman initially went to the bench with four fouls, Salem was tied 48-48 with 7:29 showing. With Ackerman out, Minerva went on a 7-1 run to lead 55-49 when Ackerman re-entered the game with 3:40 left. It gave the Lions all the cushion they needed and forced Salem into catch-up mode. Ackerman eventually fouled out with 1:00 left and Minerva up 67-56.

“We talked at halftime about getting enough stops in a row because I thought we would shoot the ball well here at home,” Green said. “We got a couple stops and got up six or eight points.”

Croston hit two three-pointers in the fourth quarter and Chris Lowe added another. Then Wright closed the deal with five fourth-quarter points in the Lions’ 25-point final period.

“Connor Wright is very good,” Green said. “I don’t think he came out tonight, he played all 32 minutes.”

“Connor Wright played a great game and you have to give them credit,” Hart said. “They hit some tough shots down the stretch. We forced them into some tough shots we wanted them to take and they made them and we didn’t.”

In the first period Salem jumped out to a 4-0 lead on fielders by Seth Shivers and Davidson but Minerva took as much as a three-point lead (7-4) following a hoop by the Lions’ Croston at the 3:46 mark but Salem outscored the Lions 9-3 the remainder of the frame to lead 13-10 after one period.

In the second quarter, Salem’s largest advantage was four points (22-18) at the 4:42 mark but Minerva, led by Wright, who had 15 first-half points, came back to lead when he drained a three at the buzzer and the hosts led 31-30 at the break.

The Lions rolled to a 45-29 win in the JV game.

Game notes

¯ Salem, which will play nine of its remaining 14 regular-season games at home, will be at Cabas Gymnasium tonight to face United Local, which is leading the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference.

“They (the Golden Eagles) are very good, they have three guys averaging in double figures, maybe a fourth and they move the ball well,” said Hart. “They’re going to be a handful and we’re going to have to be ready to play.”

¯ Minerva’s home game against Ravenna Southeast scheduled for tonight was postponed. It has been rescheduled for Jan. 20. The junior varsity game will tip off at 5 p.m.

SALEM: 13-17-28- 8–56

MINERVA: 10-21-15-25–71

SALEM SCORING: Josh Young 2-2-7, Seth Shivers 3-0-6, Turner Johnson 1-1-3, Braydon Gibson 0-0-0, Zach Bezon 2-3-7, Mitch Davidson 7-4-18, Josh Lehwald 0-0-0, Chase Ackerman 5-3-13, Trey Double 1-0-2 TEAM TOTALS: 21 13-19: 56.

MINERVA SCORING: Reece Catlett 0-0-0, Chris Lowe 2-1-7, Connor Wright 9-4-24, Brandon Baumgardner 0-0-0, Reid Miller 2-1-5, Alex Kimble 0-0-0, Mitch Myers 0-3-3, Phil Board 0-0-0, Brice Williams 3-1-7, Brock Croston 7-5-22, Blake Kinsey 1-0-3, Taylor Lowmiller 0-0-0, Mitchell Greer 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 24-15-23 71

Three-point goals: Salem 1 (Josh Young ), Minerva 8 (Brock Croston 3, Chris Lowe 2, Connor Wright 2, Blake Kinsey).