Champion eliminated Chaney, 80-62.
AUSTINTOWN -- During last year's remarkable run to a 24-2 record and the Division II state semifinals, injuries weren't much of a problem for the Salem High girls basketball team.
This tournament season is another story because of the loss of two starting guards, Kelly Roelen (mono) and Jessica Hamilton (heel stress fracture).
After a 19-0 start, Salem's dream of a perfect regular season was shattered in last week's loss to Canfield after the Quakers were limited to three points in the first half.
Slow start again
In Wednesday's tournament opener at Fitch High School, the Quakers again got off to a bit of a slow start against Metro Athletic Conference rival Poland. But once Sarah Hamilton connected on a baseline shot for a 4-2 lead, the MAC champs began to roll.
Hamilton's bucket triggered a 10-0 run that had the Quakers ahead 12-2 en route to a 61-30 romp.
"We only had four points about five minutes into the game, then we started to make things happen," Salem coach Steve Stewart said. "I thought we played well on both ends of the floor."
The Bulldogs (6-15) missed only one shot in the first quarter, but because they committed 12 turnovers, they took only two.
Senior forwards Sarah Hamilton (15 points) and Katherine McGarry (14 points) were dominant in the first three quarters. Freshman guard Kasey Wolfgang came off the bench to score 10.
"She's a streak shooter," Stewart said of Wolfgang. "She just lit it up in the second quarter."
Face Hubbard Saturday
The win advances the top-seeded Quakers (20-1) to Saturday's sectional final against Hubbard. Game time is 1 p.m. at Fitch.
"This game proved that we are very team oriented," Hamilton said. "After a little struggle, we picked it up. Our depth is amazing and anyone can step out on the floor and have a breakout game like Kasey Wolfgang did."
Stewart said his team's injury woes "certainly makes you appreciate it when you don't have them. You always want to be going into the tournament your healthiest playing your best."
"In the postseason, you have to be good and you have to be lucky," Stewart said. "Not having injuries is the lucky part of it."
"The other side of it is that you're trying to develop players to step into such situation," Stewart said. "For nonstarters it's an opportunity to show what they can do and that's what they did tonight."
About the injuries, Hamilton said. "It's been frustrating but I think we are strong enough as a team to get through it. I think we took [our good health] for granted last year and it's making us work even harder this year."
Opening the postseason against a team they had already beaten twice didn't hurt, Hamilton said.
Poland seniors Erin Hawkins and Alex Rokicki finished their careers with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Champion 80, Chaney 62
In the final minute of the third quarter, Chaney's Adrienne Peace made a pair-of 3-pointers to keep the fourth-seeded Cowgirls close to the Golden Flashes, 49-45.
But Champion sophomore Elizabeth Ghindia took charge in the final period, scoring 10 points on four baskets and two free throws to spark the Golden Flashes (15-6) to Saturday's sectional final against Southeast (8-12) that will begin after the Salem-Hubbard game.
The Cowgirls jumped out to a 16-8 lead in the first quarter before the Flashes ignited.
"We were tense and it showed when we started," Champion coach Jeff Thompson said. "Once we loosened up and spreading the floor a little bit against their pressure, we were able to get better looks."
Thompson said that Chaney (10-11) getting the fourth seed "was a source of inspiration for us. We thought we deserved the fourth seed."
Ghindia scored 24 points and had 14 rebounds and two blocked shots. Wood scored 21 while Pegg had 11.
For the Cowgirls, sophomore Tieara Jones scored 17 points while seniors Courtney Williams and Quiana Faison finished their varsity careers with 13 and 11 points, respectively.