DIVISION II Salem turns back Flashes
The Quakers will take on Rayen in Saturday's district final.
AUSTINTOWN -- In spite of all the injuries and lineup changes and headaches it's faced in the past two weeks, the Salem High girls basketball team is right where it wants to be.
Salem held off Champion on Thursday as freshman guard Kasey Wolfgang hit two clutch free throws with 12 seconds to go, giving the Quakers a 42-37 victory in a Division II district semifinal at Fitch High School.
You could call it a major scare. Flashes coach Jeff Thompson was more descriptive.
"We put the fear of God in them, if nothing else," Thompson said, smiling.
McGarry adds spark
Salem senior Katherine McGarry missed much of the second half after picking up her fourth foul midway through the third quarter. Still, she managed a team-high 15 points -- including five in the final three minutes -- to go along with four rebounds and four steals.
"She gave us such an emotional lift when she came back in," said Salem coach Steve Stewart.
"She just plays with so much intensity and I think everyone else feeds off that."
The Quakers seemed to be in control early, as senior Jessica Hamilton -- in her first game back from a heel injury -- hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to give Salem a 16-6 lead.
But the Quakers then went ice cold, missing 15-of-16 shots the rest of the quarter to allow Champion to close within two, 18-16, at halftime.
Champion stays close
Salem led 29-21 at the end of three, but Champion standout Jessica Wood scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Flashes close.
Her last bucket, with 30 seconds remaining, pulled Champion (16-7) within three, 40-37, but Wolfgang's free throws sealed the game.
"You know, we were down 12-2 and we could have folded up the tent and went home," said Thompson.
"But that just shows the character of our kids. They could have quit and they didn't."
The Quakers shot just 15-of-50 from the field for the game, including 7-of-32 in the first half.
"We probably need to shoot a little better, eh?" Stewart said.
Salem (22-1) will try for its third straight district title when it faces Rayen (18-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Tigers routed Struthers 64-43 in the early game.
Stewart is 2-0 lifetime against Rayen, but he will be without starter Kelly Roelen (mono) and he knows Hamilton is not at full strength.
"They've got a really nice team and that Taniesha Holland is a really good player," Stewart said of Rayen.
"If we want to win, we're going to need to play better than we did tonight."
The Tigers, meanwhile, will be playing in just their second district final in school history.
Rayen lost by six points to Boardman in the Div. I tournament in 2000 and Tigers coach Holly Seimetz has been looking forward to getting another opportunity.
"It's a really good feeling," she said. "This is what we've been shooting for the past few years.
"We're really looking forward to getting out there and competing. I think if we play our game, we'll do fine. Hopefully it will be enough to advance."
Holland, Rayen's standout senior guard, had 20 points, seven steals, six rebounds and five assists.
Freshman Brittany Taylor added a team-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and six steals.
In all, Rayen forced 20 turnovers.
"Our defense is the key," Seimetz said.
"Most of the time our defense really adds to our offense, so we have to pick up the tempo and stay aggressive."
Liz Valerio had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (7-16), who were outscored 16-2 in the second quarter to trail 32-14 at halftime.
Freshman Ashley Galbrieth added 15 points and Cole Robenolt had nine rebounds.