A second-quarter run was decisive as the Bulldogs clinched another MAC title.
SALEM -- Salem High boys basketball coach Jeff Brink called it a three-ring circus. Poland coach Ken Grisdale said things got out of control.
In a game that featured five technical fouls and was very physical from the start, Grisdale was just happy to see his team come out of the game in one piece -- and with a win.
Poland shot a blistering 73 percent from the floor while holding Salem to just 27 percent, as the Bulldogs clinched at least a share of their fifth consecutive Metro Athletic Conference championship with a 49-28 victory.
"I'm just glad it's over," said Grisdale. "Neither team needed to come out of this with injuries and I'm glad it didn't come to that. We need to learn how to handle these types of situations better.
"We had problems getting everything together, but in the second quarter we relaxed a little bit and did just enough to get the win."
Foul trouble early
In the early going, both squads were mired in foul trouble. But the frequent whistles plagued Salem all night and forced the Quakers out of their offensive game plan.
Tyler Pierce (6-foot-3) and Ryan Benchwick (6-6) both fouled out after spending much of the game on the bench. Salem's inside duo was limited to eight points.
"It was a mess out there," said Brink. "It was the ugliest game I've ever seen. We couldn't shoot the ball, and we made way too many mental mistakes. We got out of our offense early, and Poland made a nice run in the second quarter to pull away."
The Bulldogs (14-1, 10-0 MAC) broke open a close game with a 10-3 outburst to start the second quarter. After Salem's Jarin Heath knotted the score at 10 with a 3-pointer at the 7:41 mark of the period, Poland took over.
Connecting on 4-of-7 shots in the quarter, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-13 advantage on a Cameron Marchese 3-pointer with 3:15 remaining.
Chad Fender completed a three-point play 20 seconds later to build Poland's lead to 23-13.
"We were a lot more efficient in the second quarter," said Grisdale.
"It was pretty loud in here for a Tuesday game and we were having a hard time hearing the plays we were trying to call."
Poland pulls away
Poland's pinpoint shooting continued in the second half, while Salem (6-9, 4-6) continued to rack up the fouls and missed shots.
Benchwick and Pierce each picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter.
Despite the foul trouble, Salem trailed just 30-20 with 3:08 remaining in the third.
But Fender drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Bulldogs up 36-20 heading into the final stanza.
With Poland comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter, things got out of control as the referees called five technical fouls in the quarter.
Three came on one play, as Pierce fouled out and technicals were also assessed to Poland's Marchese and Dominic Schneider.
But once the final horn sounded, all that mattered to Grisdale was the win.
"Our No. 1 goal was to win our fifth straight league title," he said.
"The kids have worked really hard the last five years to get in this position.
"The coaches do what they can to put the kids in a situation to succeed, but it's the kids that go out there and score, rebound and pass the ball.
"We have quality kids and that's why we've been successful."