DIVISION II BOYS Salem, Poland advance to district
The Quakers defeated Niles 66-57, while the Bulldogs routed Wilson 68-35.
BOARDMAN -- Salem High boys basketball coach Jeff Brink loves black clothing almost as much as he loves basketball. But in his first tournament game, he wore a denim shirt. In his second game, he wore a black shirt with khaki pants.
Which begs the question: Is he saving the all-black ensemble for a certain Metro Athletic Conference rival with the tournament's top seed?
"I don't know," he said, smiling. "We started to play better this year when I switched up my colors. I'm superstitious about that stuff."
The Quakers haven't needed to rely on luck thus far in the tournament, playing solid basketball in both games to win their first sectional title since 1990. After dropping Chaney earlier in the week, Salem used a 13-0 fourth quarter run to take control of Saturday's game against Niles, beating the Red Dragons 66-57 in a Division II game at Boardman High School.
"Winning a sectional title and winning 10 games were two of our goals at the beginning of the season," said Brink. "But like I said before, we want to win a district title. That's what we're shooting for."
No seniors on team
Brink knows Salem might not win it this year. But after putting a scare into Poland last season in the sectional final, the Quakers -- who have no seniors on their team -- get another chance to play the spoiler when they play the Bulldogs in Thursday's district semifinal.
Poland -- which starts four seniors, by the way -- defeated Wilson in the second game, 68-35.
"We've had some success against [Salem] this year, but I think these kids understand the moment," said Poland coach Ken Grisdale. "We're a very senior-laden team and they understand that it's one and done.
"Salem does some things that no other team does and so they present their own set of challenges. I think defense and rebounding will be the keys."
Salem junior Tyler Pierce had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists for the Quakers (9-12). Junior Jarin Heath added 16 points and junior Tom Jesko had 11 points, six rebound and five assists.
"We had a tough stretch midway through the season when Niles shellacked us and Poland tattooed us," Brink said. "But we regrouped and I told the guys it's now a 10-game season and we need to get ready for the tournament. They've responded well."
Niles junior Bill Frech had 26 points, but 19 were in the first half and he did not score in the fourth quarter as the Red Dragons (10-11) shot just 3-of-16 from the field in the final period.
"We picked a bad time to go cold," said Niles coach Ron Price.
Poland, the tournament's top seed, jumped out to a 15-2 first quarter lead and cruised the rest of the way. Senior Jim Shurilla led the Bulldogs (19-2) with 14 points and Chad Fender had 10. Justin Maxwell led Wilson (5-16) with 12 points.
As the Redmen players took the court to warm up before the game, Salem's fans chanted "Let's go Wilson."
Brink didn't join in. He didn't want to play Wilson.
"Honestly, I want to play Poland," he said.
On Thursday, he'll get his chance. But after falling to Liberty in last year's district semifinal after losing Fender in the final minutes to injury, the Bulldogs have a bitter taste in their mouth. And they want to erase it.
"This group has had a lot of success over the past four years," said Grisdale. "They want to taste that again."