Salem gets back on track
SALEM – The Salem Quakers girls basketball team graduated three standout players from last year, so perhaps the expectations would not be quite as high this year. But based on their dominating 64-26 victory over the Minerva Lions in EBC play on Saturday, they are ready to give everyone on their schedule their best shot.
“We graduated three girls that went off to play college ball this year. I knew coming into this position that we had a couple of nice guards in Rylee (Hutton) and Lauryn (Barton) and a couple of nice post players, but we are raw. We are trying to run our style and our system. It’s going to take a while, but they are catching on,” Quakers head coach Tracy Miller said.
The win, which improved the Quakers to 2-2 overall in the early season and 1-1 in the EBC, was also a great bounce-back victory from a loss they suffered earlier in the week. It helped erase the bad taste of a heartbreaking 4-point loss to league-rival Alliance on Wednesday.
“Honestly, that was our focus today,” Miller said. “We had a bad outing on Wednesday against Alliance. They made the game a half-court and physical affair and we fell right into it. After that game, we came out on fire today.”
“We knew we had to change what happened to us last game. So, we came out fixing our mistakes from the Alliance game and we played ball,” senior guard Rylee Hutton added.
Although it was a basketball game, the contest took on a very physical tempo equaling the Quakers football team as both teams racked up a total of 37 fouls. Remarkably, only the Lions Madelyn Morckell fouled out of the game while the rest of the Lion’s starting lineup all finished the game with four fouls apiece.
“I did not expect such a physical game like that,” Miller admitted. “It got a little sloppy there at times. Obviously, you don’t want someone to get hurt but I like that the refs let us play a little bit for four quarters.”
“I wasn’t,” Hutton commented on her expectation of a physical game. “But you have to play physical back and keep up with them. Fortunately, nobody got hurt and we came out with the win.”
The Quakers raced out to an 18-3 lead in the first quarter and held a 25-5 advantage by the end of the frame. They would start the second period with a 9-1 run to take a commanding 34-6 lead midway through the stanza. At halftime, they would carry a 28-point, 41-13 lead into the locker rooms.
The Quakers continued to pull away in the second half as they outscored the Lions 9-4 to start the third quarter. Following a basket and two free throws by Hutton at the 3:32 mark of the frame, the Quakers held a 50-17 advantage. They would go on to hold a 59-26 lead by the end of the third quarter.
“Our entire game plan was around her (Hutton) basically,” Lions head coach Josh Marckell said. “We tried to keep her out of the paint because she is the engine that gets them going. She is a dynamic player, and we know it is tough to stop her. We threw everything at her but the kitchen sink.”
Hutton scored a game-high 19 points with 6 rebounds. After starting the game just 2-7 at the charity stripe, she was a perfect 6-of-6 in the second half to take advantage of the many fouls. Reese Davidson-Chuck tallied 12 while Lauryn Barton added 11 points to help pace the Quakers. Maddy Andres controlled the boards with 8 rebounds to lead the Quakers.
“You’re not going to win many games with just one girl scoring all the points,” Hutton said. “It’s good to have everybody distribute equal points so teams don’t know who to stop.”
“As we get into the second half of the season, teams are going to start double-teaming Rylee. I think every game we have played so far except for one, we have had three players in double figures. I think some of our girls stepped up coming off of the bench and gave us some good minutes, too,” Miller added.
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Hutton knocked down two free throws on a technical foul, followed by a basket by Maddy Andres to activate the running clock with the Quakers up 61-26. Both teams emptied their benches as the Quakers outscored the Lions 7-0 in the final frame.
“We are 2-2 and we feel like we should be better than that,” Miller said. “But I think we stepped out on the floor and tried to prove that tonight. And hats off to Minerva. They are well-coached, and they play hard. They didn’t back down at all.”
The Lions, who dropped to 1-2 on the season and 0-2 in the EBC will try to bounce back on Monday when they host East Canton. The Quakers will try to keep the momentum rolling when they host Carrollton on Wednesday night in another key EBC game.