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Desperation heave sinks Salem

Salem's Casey Johnson drives on Perry's Elle Infalvi on Saturday.

PERRY– Salem’s girls basketball team could see a district championship in its immediate future with 4.4 seconds left and a two-point lead in Saturday’s Div. II district final against top-seed Perry.

However, in a flash, defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

A miracle, banked-in 35-footer from just inside the halfcourt line by Perry’s Madyson Hacking sent the home fans roaring at the buzzer as Perry ended Salem’s season with a 41-40 win.

Salem, the No. 4 seed, finished 16-6 while top seeded Perry Pirates improved to 21-4. Perry advances to take on Poland on Tuesday in a Div. II regional semifinal.

Salem trailed 38-37 with 17.5 seconds left and forced an offensive foul on Perry to get the ball back. After a timeout, Salem’s Krista Barley knocked down a three-pointer to give Salem a 40-38 lead with 4.4 seconds left.

After a few more timeouts, Perry’s Marcella Rodriguez found Hacking just over half court and Hacking sent the Pirates to the regional semifinals with a shot she won’t forget for a long time.

“It was fitting to have our all-time leading scorer hit a buzzer beater to win the district title,” Perry coach Roy Infalvi said.

“I didn’t even think we were going to get the ball up the court and Marcella did an awesome job of handling the trap and throwing the ball up,” Hacking said. “I had to let it loose and it felt good out of my hands.”

For Salem, Abbie Davidson led the way with 11 points. It was a balanced scoring effort from the Quakers, with nine different players scoring. For Perry, Elle Infalvi had 11 points and Hacking added 10.

Perry led 14-0 after the first quarter and held the Quakers to 0-for-6 from the field and forced eight Salem turnovers in the opening eight minutes.

Then, the Quakers started chipping away.

“We limited our unforced turnovers and looked to attack more,” Salem coach Sarah Hamilton said. “We also turned up our defensive pressure. We saw that they were really packing it in on us, so we needed to come at them with what we are best at and that was our defensive pressure.”

“We knew they were going to come out and really penetrate and try to get to the basket,” Infalvi said. “We wanted to come out and play the half court and we knew our half court (man-to-man) was good enough to take away that dribble penetration and we did a good job helping. We got some early turnovers and got some big baskets.”

Salem cut the Perry lead to 21-12 at the half and in the third quarter, outscored the Pirates 18-5 to take a 30-26 lead going into the final frame.

“I think the girls started to believe,” Hamilton said about their comeback. “They haven’t played on a stage like this in a long time. We were Div. III for a while and it is just a different stage. I think they started to believe, and we saw what was working for us and went from there.”

Salem outscored Perry 30-12 in the second and third quarters.

“It speaks to the season that we have had,” Hamilton added. “All of the quarantines and all of the setbacks we have had, these girls are so used to facing adversity and they kind of start to smile in the face of it and they were able to come back. It was an exciting game and we just came up short.”

“They picked up the tempo and got a little fast paced but that isn’t out of our game, we like going up and down the floor,” Infalvi said. “We also had some opportunities inside that we just didn’t make.”

After a back and forth fourth quarter, Barley stepped up and hit a huge shot for the Quakers in the biggest of moments.

“We had a couple of options,” Hamilton said. “They really packed it in the paint, so we moved it around and found Krista. We initially set up for a drive but they packed it in so we found Krista.”

Infalvi had nothing but praise for the Quakers after seeing them firsthand.

“They remind me of West Branch who we played in the regionals last year,” Infalvi said. “The way they play defense and the way they get after and pressure the ball. The guards are super quick and that was a concern of ours coming in. They rank up there high, especially defensively, as one of the better teams we have played this year.”

For Salem, Hamilton said this group of seniors is one that won’t be forgotten for a long time.

“These seniors are a special group,” Hamilton said. “Their work ethic is unmatched. They were the first ones in the gym and the last ones to leave. They’ve dreamed of this since they were in junior high and it just breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to give it to them.”

Game notes

• Perry was ranked 12th in Div. II in the final Associated Press poll.

• Perry has only lost to Akron Hoban, Chardon, Stow-Munroe Falls and Cornerstone Christian all season. Akron Hoban is ranked 12th in Div. I.

• Perry started 17-1 on the season.

SALEM: 0-12-18-10–40

PERRY: 14-7-5-15–41

SALEM SCORING: Kami Rohm 1-0-2, Casey Johnson 1-0-2, Abby Perry 2-2-6, Rylee Hutton 0-1-1, Annie Davidson 1-0-3, Jenna McClish 1-1-3, Abbie Davidson 4-3-11, Alivia Davidson 0-0-0, Krista Barley 2-0-6, Alanee Davidson 0-0-0, Kyla Jamison 3-0-6. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 7-9: 40

PERRY SCORING: Elle Infalvi 3-3-11, Madyson Hacking 4-1-10, Gigi Vicini 0-1-1, Sydney Moon 0-0-0, Margaux Jean 2-0-5, Izzy McKoon 0-0-0, Marcella Rodriguez 3-0-6, JaC’ana Anderson 0-8-8. TEAM TOTALS: 12, 13-20: 41.

Three-point goals: Salem 3 (Barley 2, Annie Davidson 1), Perry 4 (Infalvi 2, Hacking, Jean).

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