By John Bassetti
The right wing was the right place to be on Boardman High’s gym floor as Southeast’s Nathan Symiak and second-seeded Salem’s Zach Economous made 3-point goals of significance from nearly the same spot in different Division II sectional final basketball games Friday night.
Symiak’s goal knotted the game at 60, to help give his team momentum toward a 76-67 double overtime win against No. 3 Niles and Economous’ shot was significant because it marked the 20-point margin mark in the Quakers’ 70-53 win over Ravenna.
“We told our kids before the game, that, when you’re kind of the underdog, some of our kids are going to have to step up and make a big play,” Southeast coach Matt Dillon said. “They have to be self-motivated and do something special for the team,” the coach said of players such as Symiak and Jordan Krych, who filled the void after starters Trevor Norquest and Dakota LaPorte fouled out for the Pirates.
Also, bench player Corey Proctor had big minutes during a critical time while sophomore Kade Norquest hit two free throws with 48.5 seconds left.
“It takes a lot of guts for a sophomore who didn’t play much until then to step to the line and make two big free throws,” Dillon said.
“The only thing we did down the stretch was that our decision-making was better. We didn’t turn the ball over and when you don’t turn the ball over, you’re going to get good looks at the basket and I think we did a really good job of valuing the basketball late in the game.”
Krych, who distributes the ball and is a leader on the floor, had 29 points, while Niles’ Ray Russ had a game-high 30 points and reached 1,000 for his career.
Southeast (14-9) will face Salem (18-6) Wednesday.
Southeast made five 3-point goals and a three-point play in less than three minutes remaining in regulation to conclude a 24-point fourth quarter.
“Give them all the credit in the world because, sometimes the team that gets hot beats you,” Niles coach Ron Price said. “We never felt in control, but, if they would have missed any one of those 3s against a decent [man-to-man] defense, the outcome is probably different and it doesn’t come down to overtime. But that’s basketball.”
Marcus Hill, James Tate and Kyle Paden fouled out for Niles (13-11).
“When you’re playing that long, fouls are going to take their toll,” Price said. “We played hard, but, because of the simple fact that a team played hot at the right time, they deserved to win.”
Anthony Shivers had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Salem, which had a comfortable lead that reached its zenith with a long-range basket by Economous to put the Quakers up, 57-37.
“We played some great defense in the first half and that set the tone,” Salem coach Rich Hart said. “Putting them on their heels definitely set the tone, defensively, and that was the key to the game. I think we surprised them by playing so hard and physical, defensively. That allowed us to get a lead.”
Point guard Brendan Webb had 12 points for the winners.
Of meeting Southeast, Hart said: “They’re a scrappy bunch,” he said after watching the evening’s first game. “They knocked down the 3s and they proved that they can beat anybody.”