SALEM - Salem head coach Rich Hart looked up following Friday night's game at John A. Cabas Gymnasium and summed up his return in just three words.
"I feel great," he said with a smile.
He should. His Quakers used a 10-0 run mid-way through the fourth quarter to secure their fourth win on the season, 56-43 over Marlington to remain unbeaten.
"I got cleared on Wednesday," Hart said. "I couldn't spend another two or three days doing nothing."
Hart returned to the bench for the first time this season after a medical procedure to put at stint in his heart. He said he wasn't feeling any effects of it following the game.
"Once the game started, it wasn't going to make any difference," he said.
MARLINGTON: 11 13 9 10 - 43
SALEM: 13 18 11 14 - 56
MARLINGTON SCORING: Micah Hall 2-0-4, Shawn Kirk 2-2-4, Dan Krupko 5-0-11, Lucas Strouble 5-2-12, Jordan Knapp 2-1-6, Dylan Simmons 0-2-2, Thomas Mason 2-2-2, Jacob Sawman 0-0-0, Adam Penird 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 18, 5-8, 43.
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 9-0-19, Mike Madison 1-2-4, Brendan Webb 2-0-6, Max Wolfgang 3-0-6, Anthony Shivers 10-1-21, Zach Economous 0-0-0, Austin Frank 0-0-0, Zack Wukotich 0-0-0, Brooks Bezon 0-0-0, Mike Popa 0-0-0, Ryan Hoover 0-0-0, Eric Madison 0-0-0, Rocco Davanzo 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 25, 3-7, 56.
THREE POINTERS: Marlington 2 (Andrews, Knapp), Salem 3 (Webb 2, Bush).
The early season Northeastern Buckeye Conference match-up took a slower pace with both teams managing just four points midway through the first frame.
Each team then rattled off runs of seven points, beginning with the Quakers. Back-to-back buckets by Anthony Shivers put Salem up 8-4 and a 3-pointer by Bush extendeded their lead to 11-4.
Marlington answered with a run of its own as Chris Andrews knocked down an open 3-pointer from the corner to tie things at 11 with less than a minute to play.
Ryan Bush came back with a tip in on the Quakers next possession to put Salem back ahead - a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the evening.
Officials let both teams play for much of the first two quarters, in a physical league game that didn't see either team make a trip to the free-throw line until the second.
"That's the NBC - it's a war every night," Hart said. "All of these games are very physical and whoever executes the best is going to come out on top. You have to rebound, you have to play defense and you have to execute to win these games."
And rebound the Quakers did, particularly Max Wolfgang, whose presence in the scorebook was not nearly as important as on the glass. Wolfgang finished the game with six points but pulled down 14 rebounds.
"Max just cleaned the boards, and I'm really proud of the way he played," Hart said.
The Quakers had a task of slowing down Marlington's Lucas Strouble, who has committed to play at the collegiate level at Walsh.
"He's very athletic," Hart said.
Strouble finished the night with 12 points, but was largely limited due to a combined effort from several Quakers.
"Tony did a heck of a job on the Strouble kid," Hart said. "He held him to 12 points and it was a hard 12 points. (Zach) Economous did a good job on him as well. He's a kid we couldn't let get going from beyond the 3-point line."
The Quaker bench provided a boost throughout the evening and helped Salem take a seven-point lead into the locker room with Mike Madison's basket late in the half.
"We played pretty well the first half but we forced some things," Hart said. "I told them at half time if we just ran our offense we would be fine. We were playing that well defensively, everybody just stepped up. The bench gave us a boost and Mike Madison was a big lift as well."
Wolfgang also made an impact defensively. With a big block, he triggered a Quaker fast break that was capped off with Anthony Shivers getting an easy layup to put Salem up by 11, their fist double-digit lead of the night, and force Marlington to call a timeout.
Shivers finished the evening with a double-double, notching a game-high 21 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
The Dukes opened up the fourth with a 4-0 run over the first 2:16 to cut it Salem's lead to five.
Salem answered coming out of a timeout and itself the breathing room they had been searching for all evening.
Shivers highlighted the run, accounting for eight of the Quakers' 14 fourth quarter points.
"It feels good to be back," Hart said.
Marlington won the jayvee game 64-24.
Salem (4-0, 2-0 NBC) travels to East Liverpool Tuesday.