Leone hits a grand for West Branch
SALEM — Any time Salem and West Branch get together, no matter what the sport, fans are treated to a rivalry at the highest level.
Young Salem battled the veteran Warriors close for a half here Friday night, but a 13-5 West Branch run to start the third quarter, ignited a strong second half by the visitors who went on to post a 61-39 Eastern Buckeye Conference win over the Quakers at Cabas Gymnasium.
“We battled hard, had some trouble scoring (in the second) half, but that’s where we’re at (with a young team),” said Salem coach Jeff Andres. “We’re trying to get better and West Branch is good, they’re sitting at the top of the league for a reason.”
With the win, West Branch, which leads the EBC by itself after Carrollton’s overtime loss to Alliance Tuesday night, improved to 10-3 overall and finished the first half of the league season at 5-1.
“It was a great environment,” said West Branch coach Michael Brown, coaching in his first Salem-West Branch game. “We’re just really thankful up to this point that we’ve been able to play in environments like this.”
Salem is now 1-10 overall and 1-5 in EBC action.
West Branch senior Reese Leone co-led the Warriors with 17 points and reached 1,000 career points when he made a layup at the 4:13 mark of the third period, giving West Branch a 35-22 lead. At the following timeout, it was announced that Leone had reached 1,000 points and fans from both schools gave the West Branch senior point guard a fine ovation. Leone was also given the game ball.
“This game is why you play basketball,” said Leone of the great rivalry with Salem. “It was a great crowd. They don’t like us and we don’t like them. It’s just a fun game. We’re senior-oriented and this is our seventh time playing in this game, and no matter what the records are, you throw them (the records) in the trash, and we just kept playing our game and the shots started to fall and we rebounded and stuck to the game plan.”
“It felt good (reaching 1,000 points),” added Leone, “but I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without my coaches and my teammates and my parents who helped me develop a love for the game.”
Brown said Leone leads by example in the Warriors’ program.
“You don’t get an accomplishment like this in December and January — you get it from the hard work you put in June, July and August ,” said Brown. “What a great example he (Leone) has been for our youth basketball at West Branch and the ball-handling clinics we’ve had and what an impact he’s made (on the younger kids in the program).”
Another senior who had a big game for the Warriors was 6-8 senior center Nick Everett who also finished with 17 points but also had a monster game on the boards with 19 rebounds and a blocked shot.
“He (Everett )is playing with a heck of a motor right now,” said Brown. “He’s kind of redefining what toughness is for him, the toughness for him is going and getting rebounds and making sure he’s walling up instead of getting into foul trouble right off the bat. He understands he doesn’t have to score 20 points to have a huge impact on the game.”
Also finishing in double figures for West Branch was freshman Jaxon Hendershott who had 12 points.
Salem was led by a fine 14-point effort from Dillon Monroy while teammates Hunter Griffith and Drew Weir added eight points apiece.
“Dillon Monroy is giving us a lot, he led us in scoring tonight with 14,” praised Andres. “He just makes plays, he’s a playmaker out there.”
Salem played West Branch strong in the first half and led 4-0 to open the game and 9-8 at the 4:04 juncture of the first period and trailed just 15-13 after one.
There were three lead changes in the second quarter and Salem took its last lead of the game at 20-19 when Drew Weir buried a three-pointer with 2:34 showing before halftime. But West Branch outscored the Quakers 5-0 in the remaining time to take a 24-20 advantage at intermission.
“We were very happy with where we were at halftime,” said Andres. “Down four against them, we’ll take that any day of the week.”
But the game turned at the outset of the third quarter as West Branch went on a 13-5 run, spearheaded by Everett and Leone who combined to score 10 of the Warriors’ points in the spurt. With momentum on their side, West Branch outscored the Quakers 16-9 in the frame to lead 40-29 after three.
“We had a look at the rim on the first possession of the third, got fouled and missed two free throws and came down and missed another layup and some foul shots and went on a drought there,” said Andres.
“And Reese (Leone) is good and Everett is big and they kind of imposed their will on us in the third quarter and in the the fourth quarter it got away from us.”
West Branch outscored Salem 21-10 in the final quarter and took its largest lead (22 points) at game’s end.
• Leone is the fourth West Branch boy to reach 1,000 career points. He joins T.J. DeShields (1,110), Scott Loudon (1,082) and Don Imoberstag (1,001).
• West Branch won the junior varsity game, 51-35. Josh Gregory led West Branch with 10 points. Brock Young paced the Quakers with 11 points.
• Salem returns to action Friday night when the Quakers entertain the Minerva Lions in an EBC contest.
“We’re going to play hard and defend,” said Andres looking ahead to the Minerva game. “Hopefully the ball will fall for us.”
West Branch also plays Friday night when the Warriors host the Alliance Aviators in a key EBC game.
WEST BRANCH: 15-9-16-21-61
SALEM: 13-7- 9-10-39
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Nick Everett 8-1-17, Jaxon Hendershott 3-3-12, Reese Leone 6-4-17, Cohen Lamp 0-0-0, Jed Smith 2-0-5, Nick Pidgeon 1-0-3, Dru DeShields 1-2-4, Andrew Coffee 0-0-0, Justin Goode 1-0-3, Josh Gregory 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 22, 10-15: 61.
SALEM SCORING: Hunter Griffith 4 0-8, Sam Walter 0-0-0, Brock Young 0-2-2, Cam Jaquette 0-0-0, Kaleb Caldwell 0-0-0, Logan Blissenbach 0-0-0, Drew Weir 3-0-8, Davin Koskinen 1-0-2, Jon Null 1-0-2, Dillon Monroy 5-2-14, Jaren Snyder 1-0-2, Caden Rohm 0-0-0, Caleb Stockman 0-1-1. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 5-12: 39.
Three-point goals: West Branch 4 (Reese Leone, Jaxon Hendershott, Nick Pidgeon, Justin Goode); Salem 4 (Drew Weir 2, Dillon Monroy 2).
Total fouls: West Branch 11, Salem 11. Fouled out: none.