DIVISION II GIRLS Salem easily grabs ninth sectional title
The Quakers, playing without two starters, rolled past Hubbard 61-47.
AUSTINTOWN -- Normally when a coach looks down his bench and sees two starters in street clothes, it's not a good sign.
That's not the case for Salem High girls basketball coach Steve Stewart.
"We have a full rotation of 10 or 11 girls that play tough defense and can wear you down," he said. "That's always our goal and we have the personnel to do that."
Missing two starters indefinitely -- Kelly Roelen (mono) and Jessica Hamilton (stress fracture) -- the Quakers used their depth to build a 21-point advantage against Hubbard and held off the Eagles' fourth-quarter surge to earn a 61-47 victory in a Division II sectional final game at Fitch High School.
District play next
The sectional title was Salem's ninth straight and advances them to a district semifinal matchup Thursday at 7:45 against Champion.
"We realize that everyone on this team is important," said Salem senior Sarah Hamilton. "Our bench is really amazing and any of them [are] capable of coming in and having a breakout game. That's what makes us a real good team."
The Quakers' bench outscored Hubbard's reserves 14-1 and brought tough defensive pressure to force the Eagles into tough shots and key turnovers.
Junior Amanda Thorne led the charge with 10 points and four rebounds. Leah Perry and Charity Montford each added two points.
Defense spurs Quakers
Salem's defense in the first three quarters was outstanding. In the first half alone, the Quakers had nine steals.
But it was the third quarter when Salem's energy soared. The Quakers broke open a close game by outscoring Hubbard 24-13 to build a 46-25 advantage.
"We just came out with more intensity in the third quarter," said Hamilton, who led Salem with 15 points and eight rebounds. "The coaches told us to keep taking the ball to the basket and things started falling for us."
Hamilton sparked Salem's outburst with four points in the first two minutes of the third. Her free throws at the 5:51 mark gave the Quakers a 37-24 lead.
But Hubbard (7-14) whittled the deficit down to 55-46 on a pair of Danielle DeJulio free throws with 4:22 remaining.
Salem's defense stepped up in the final four minutes, limiting the Eagles to just one point, as the Quakers scored six.
Potts has big game
Jessica Potts was the Quakers' catalyst on the defensive end, disrupting Hubbard's passing lanes throughout. The senior had one of her best games of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing six steals.
"Everyone on this team can put ball pressure on their guards," said Stewart. "We have so many girls that are excited about tournament time and wanting to contribute. We had one of our best practices of the year yesterday. Our energy level is up right now."
Salem (21-1) put four players in double figures -- Hamilton (15), Potts (12), Thorne (10) and Katherine McGarry (10 points, nine rebounds).
Champion 62, Southeast 34
Jessica Wood had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead Champion (16-6).
Elizabeth Ghindia and Ashley Haas added 11 points each for the Golden Flashes.
Hannah Harnar scored 17 points to pace Southeast.