Salem topples Poland again
The Quakers won for the third time, 44-32, while Lakeview ousted Liberty, 55-43.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
BOARDMAN -- Salem High basketball players had a few chips to knock off their shoulders Wednesday at the Division II district tournament at Boardman High School.
The top-seeded Quakers (18-3) wanted to avenge last year's district loss to Poland and show the rest of the tournament field that they were ready to defend their top ranking.
Salem knocked off Metro Athletic Conference rival Poland for the third time this year, 44-32, to advance to a district semi-final matchup next Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Lakeview.
Third-seeded Lakeview (17-4) rallied in the fourth quarter to turn back Trumbull Athletic Conference rival Liberty, 55-43, in the opening game of the doubleheader.
The Bulldogs split the regular season series with the Leopards and were the champions of the TAC.
In the nightcap, Salem watched Poland score the first six points of the game on two 3-pointers and then went to work.
The Quakers used 14 first half points from Tom Jesko and a tenacious defense to score the next 22 points of the game and hold Poland scoreless for nearly 11 minutes.
To Poland's credit, despite shooting only 27 percent from the field for the game, the Bulldogs got back in the contest after falling behind 22-6.
The Bulldogs rallied with an 18-4 run of its own to cut the Salem lead to 26-22 before Salem regained control of the contest.
Poland (9-13) hit just three of 15 field goals in the last quarter and Salem pulled away by knocking down seven of nine free throws down the stretch.
"Poland beat us three times last year," Salem coach Jeff Brink said. "They were the better team last year. This year things were reversed.
"This year we were the better team and that's why you win three times in a year," Brink said. "I'll bet there isn't a team in the last decade that's beaten Poland three times in a row in a season."
Leading the Quakers
Jesko led the Quakers with 18 points while Ryan Benchwick added 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Poland coach Ken Grisdale lamented his team's poor shooting and scoring droughts for the lack of success against the Quakers.
"We didn't put the ball in the hole," Grisdale said. "You are going to have years where you don't have that great shooter.
"That's our problem but we try to overcome that with good defense. Tonight it wasn't enough."
Poland's leading scorer was junior guard Chris Lovell who tallied 14 points.
Brink said the Quakers have plenty of motivation after the win over Poland and for the rest of the tournament.
"When we had the tournament draw everyone came in our bracket," Brink said. "Lakeview came in our bracket, Liberty came in our bracket and Poland and Southeast came in our bracket.
"All these teams had other opportunities but they wanted to stay away from Canfield. Hey, if they think they can beat us then that is what they are going to have to do.
"We told the kids this is what teams think of you and that the only way to earn respect is to keep winning ballgames."
Lakeview will get the chance to see if moving into Salem's bracket will pay off after they defeated Liberty.
The Leopards needed most of three quarters to battle back after the Bulldogs opened a 17-10 first quarter lead.
Liberty (15-7) finally took the lead briefly at 36-33 with 7:01 left in the game before Lakeview's Dustin Opalka took over.
The junior guard hit consecutive 3-point plays on driving layups to turn the game back in Lakeview's favor. Opalka was fouled each time and hit the ensuing free throw.
Opalka finished with 24 points, including 14 in the final seven minutes to seal the win.
Eddie Mackiewicz added 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Liberty's Edward Kershaw battled against Lakeview's box-and-one defense all night but still managed to score 19 points.