By Doug Chapin
NEWTON FALLS — With her team ahead by 20 points midway through the third quarter Tuesday night, a Newton Falls High fan was overheard complaining that many of the games were boring this season because the Tigers won by such large margins.
To the chagrin of veteran Falls coach Roy Sembach, this one did not remain boring all the way through.
The Salem Quakers put together a 31-point fourth quarter and closed to within seven points on two occasions before the Tigers held on for a 69-59 triumph.
“I think we got a little lax and quit playing and they’re a very good basketball team and they didn’t quit playing,” Sembach said. “To their credit they made it interesting, they didn’t give up, they kept plugging away and they made some shots.
“We’ve got to learn to have the killer instinct.”
Salem coach Will Klucinec said he thought the size of the Tigers’ lead contributed to the comeback.
“It’s one of those things, once you get a lead like that, Newton Falls gets to be a little more selective on their shots, a little more patient,” he said. “Some of that patience kind of slowed them down a little bit, got them out of their rhythm, out of their tempo.
“We were able to make some shots, get a couple steals, get a couple turnovers which got us back into the game. But that’s the kind of effort we need for all four quarters. That type of intensity, that sense of urgency.”
Cody Dillon and Brian Sole scored 24 points apiece for the Tigers (7-1). Dillon also had five assists and four steals. Stephen Page added 10 points and Tyler Kernen dished out four assists.
For Salem (4-3), Ryan Wolfgang led the way with 27 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals. Jake Madison added 13 points and Trent Kenreigh scored 11.
The Tigers led 18-13 after one quarter, 35-20 at the half and 45-28 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, Salem shot 8-for-15 from the field, including 3-for-9 from 3-point range, and 12-for-17 from the line to account for its 31 points.
The Quakers closed to within 49-42 at the 5:18 mark before a one-possession sequence increased the Tigers’ lead to 15.
Page converted a three-point play off a great feed from Dillon to start the sequence. The Quakers were whistled for a technical foul and Sole canned both free throws. On the ensuing possession, Dillon found Sole inside for another three-point play and Falls led 57-42 with 4:42 remaining.
The lead was still 15, 63-48, with 1:27 left to play and the Quakers still would not give up. Salem pulled within 66-59 with 23 seconds showing on the clock but was unable to complete the comeback.
“The nice thing about it is we survived and won,” Sembach said. “You hope they learned a lesson. You hope they see that the game was not won when they thought it was. I think, in talking in the locker room, that they realize that they messed up a little bit.”