South Range stumbles again at Salem
By Greg Gulas
Salem High’s John A. Cabas Gymnasium has been kind to the South Range boys basketball team over the past two regular seasons.
But it has been an absolute buzzsaw come tournament time.
The top-seeded Raiders trailed by as many as 12 early in the fourth quarter and saw a frantic late rally fall short in a 46-42 loss to fourth-seeded Canton Central Catholic in a Division III district semifinal Monday night.
The 42 points scored was their second-lowest output of the season, topped only by a 36-point overtime effort against Ursuline on Jan. 30.
“We knew they liked to pass the ball, sometimes reversing it as many as four times during a possession,” Raiders head coach John Cullen said. “We gave them some open shots in the first half, but had our chances as well.
“At the end of the game and with time winding down, our goal was to try to squeeze in five possessions and we actually had six. You find out you can give more than you thought you could give when you just reach down and continue to fight. You don’t have to win a championship to be considered a winner and in the fourth quarter, we were champions. This group will always be remembered as winners.”
The Raiders end their season 22-2. They were 45-4 the last two seasons and two of those came in district semifinals at Salem.
Brandon Youngs scored nine of his team-high 12 points during the fourth-quarter comeback.
“My mindset was to provide a spark and do anything I could in order to give us a chance to win,” Youngs said. “We fell short, but this group fought the entire game and it’s what we’ve done all season long. This is a very special group.”
The Crusaders opened an early 9-4 lead, then rode 3-pointers from Brett Bossart, Stone Sirpilla and Brian Shepard to a 19-10 lead after one quarter,
South Range’s Chris Brooks scored all six of his points in the first quarter,
Jaxon Anderson’s four points and Youngs’ first triple, combined with stingy defense by both squads, helped the Raiders pull within 26-19 at halftime.
“We played our hearts out because we didn’t want to let our seniors down. Unfortunately, we came up a little short,” Anderson said. “Our last two years have been memorable and we’ll be back next season just as strong.”
Four more points by Anderson in the third quarter helped pull the Raiders to within 33-28.
A triple by Cameron Creamer, and buckets by Cortez Simmons and Shepard keyed a 7-0 run to start the fourth period as Central Catholic took its biggest lead, 40-28, with 6:24 to play.
“Our game plan was to make sure that we took good, high-percentage shots, look to get stops and then run when we had the opportunity,” Shepard said. “Coach [Matt] Creamer always tells us that a bad shot is like a turnover so we made sure we had quality looks.”
Mike Cunningham’s bucket from behind the arc cut the Raiders’ deficit to 42-34 with 1:53 remaining, and after a Shepard three-point play and free throw from Simmons, the Crusaders went back up, 46-34.
South Range then went on an 8-0 run over the final 82 seconds to pull to within 46-42, led by triples from Youngs and Anderson. But several chances in the final 36 seconds fell short as the Raiders’ 10-game win streak and season ended.
Central Catholic will play in a district final at 7 p.m. Friday against the winner of tonight’s semifinal between second-seeded Mogadore and sixth-seeded Campbell.