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End of the line for Quakers

At right, Salem’s Landon Cooper saves the ball from going out of bounds. (Photos by Gary Leininger)

SALEM — Salem fell behind by 17 points in the first half, made a great comeback to pull within eight in the fourth quarter but Louisville countered the rally to post a 75-61 win over the Quakers in a Div. II sectional boys’ basketball title game in John A. Cabas Gymnasium Friday night.

“We dug ourselves a big hole, which we’ve done many times this year, but we came back and cut it to eight and I was really proud of the guys,” said Salem head coach Jeff Andres. “We got after them a little bit at halftime and they responded to cut it to eight, but we just kind of ran out of gas maybe at that point,” he added.

With the loss, the Quakers, who enjoyed an outstanding season, which included the tri-championship in the Eastern Buckeye Conference with West Branch and Canton South,, finished with a fine record of 16-8.

The win for Louisville (14-9) sends the Leopards into a Div. II district semifinal game at No. 2-seeded Poland next Thursday at 7 p.m. Poland won a sectional championship Friday night with a 54-29 triumph over Lakeview.

“I’m just really proud of our guys’ intensity,” said Louisville head coach Tom Siegfried. “You can’t predict making shots, but you can predict effort and that’s what they did tonight.”

Leading the Quakers was junior Jon Null with a team-high 19 points, while Drew Weir and Hunter Griffith added 15 and 11 points, respectively, despite both players missing time due to foul trouble in the game. Brock Young added six points and Ross Davidson finished with five markers.

Despite the tough loss, Andres said he couldn’t be more proud of all that the Quakers accomplished this winter.

“You look at preseason, if you would have told me all of the things would happen (16-8 record and the EBC title) you would certainly take it,” said Andres. “But being competitors you want more than what we were able to accomplish, but I’m really proud of them and proud to be their coach.”

Louisville featured a well-balanced scoring attack with four players reaching double digits. Pacing the Leopards was Will Aljancic with a game-high 20 points, while Hayden Nigro added 17, Broc Perkins finished with 13 markers and Cory Noble ended with 12 points.

A huge key in Louisville’s win occurred on the glass where the Leopards held a 38-22 advantage, led by Noble who had a game-high 13 rebounds. Null and Young paced the Quakers with four rebounds each.

“And at the end of the day, those offensive rebounds allow you to not shoot quite as well and still get some good opportunities to score,” stated Siegfried.

The Louisville coach praised Noble’s big night on the backboards.

“Cory is a four-year guy for us and he’s really been picking it up in the tournament and I’m really proud of him,” praised Siegfried. “I just think he’s done a tremendous job as a senior captain.”

Salem led once in the game at 2-0 when Hunter Griffith made a layup to open the contest, but Louisville, which dominated the boards 16-7 in the opening 16 minutes, got several second and third-chance opportunities and outscored the Quakers 19-7 the rest of the quarter to lead 19-9 after one.

Andres agreed Louisville’s dominance on the boards played a big role in the outcome.

“We talked about it at halftime a little bit, they kicked our butts on the boards,” said the Salem coach. “They really took it to us for a big part of the game. In the first half, we were just giving up straight lines to the basket and that killed us.”

With Louisville jamming the middle and Salem’s Weir missing much of the second quarter with two fouls, the Leopards took as much as a 17-point (36-19) lead in the period on a free throw by Boldon. Salem trimmed the halftime deficit to 15 points following a layup by Null, who had six points in the first half. Griffith led the Quakers in the first half with eight points. Nigro paced the Leopards in the first half with 12 points.

As had been the case all season, Salem used its aggressive defense and forced several Louisville turnovers and the Quakers cut the deficit to 11 points (54-33) after three quarters.

The Quakers got as close as eight points (56-48) of the Leopards following a layup by Griffith with just 4:38 left in the game.

But Louisville got into the bonus in the closing minutes of the game and converted nine free throws in the remaining time to seal the win. For the game, LHS was 22-of-31 from the stripe while Salem was eight-of-13.

Andres said his team made tremendous progress this season. The best part is that Salem returns all but two graduating seniors for next season.

“We have a great bunch of guys and the kids are going to come back and work and we’re looking forward to next year,” said the Salem mentor. “I know some of them are already chomping at the bit to get to work on things for next year.”

LOUISVILLE: 19-19-16-21–75

SALEM: 9-14-20-18–61

LOUISVILLE SCORING: Will Aljancic 6-7-20, Zach Seaman 1-0-2, Broc Pickens 4-5-13, Kurt Haren 1-0-2, Dakota Hoffman 0-2-2, Carter Duskey 0-0-0, Chase Mueller 0-0-0, Jordan Cherry 0-0-0, Tyler Boldon 3-1-7, Hayden Nigro 6-3-17, Connor King 0-0-0, Cory Noble 4-4-12, AJ Lingenhoel 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 25, 22-31: 75

SALEM SCORING: Hunter Griffith 6-0-13, Sam Walter 0-0-0, Landon Cooper 0-0-0, Jon Null 8-2-19, Brock Young 2-2-6, Drew Weir 6 5-3-15, Davin Koskinen 0-0-0, Cade Rohm 1-0-3, Ross Davidson 2-1-5. TEAM TOTALS: 24, 8-13: 61.

Three-point goals: Louisville 3 (Hayden Nigro 2, Will Aljancic 1); Salem 5 (Drew Weir 2, Hunter Griffith 1, Jon Null 1, Cade Rohm 1) .

Total fouls: Louisville 16, Salem 22.

Fouled out: none

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