SALEM - Ryan Bush walked into the John A. Cabas Gymnasium for Friday night's game against the Louisville Leopards with 991 points career points in a Salem uniform. When he left, he walked away with 1,003 and counting with 11 regular season games still to play.
"As soon as I hit that free throw, it overwhelmed me for a second," Bush said. "I looked over at the crazies and they were going nuts, I looked over at my family and they were jumping around."
Bush's 1,000th career point came on a free throw to tie the game with just 1:42 left in the fourth quarter. Career point number 1,001 was perhaps more important, as it gave Salem a one-point lead on the ensuing foul shot on the team's way to an evenetual 47-43 win which pulled the Quakers (9-2, 5-1) into a first-place tie with Canton South in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference.
"I definitely didn't think about a free-throw," Bush said. "I thought it would come from like a layup or something that I get more often, but it was nice. It was weird after I made the free throw, then I had to come back and make another one after I went over to coach and everything."
Bush's accomplishment was anything but easy against a stubborn Louisville team.
"It was a such a physical game, it was so tough," Bush said. "For a bit there I didn't know if I was going to get it, but I didn't really care. I don't care what game I got it in. I wanted to do it at home, but I really wanted to get the win more."
Bush is averaging 23.4 points a game this season.
Louisville came to Salem with a plan, and it was to spread the floor and slow the high-flying Quakers down. They did just that.
The Leopards used a four-corner scheme to create as much space as possible and force Salem to come out and defend.
When they did, they penetrated, and as the help defense stepped up it left someone open on the block for easy buckets.
After one quarter of play, Louisville led just 7-6.
"We missed too many free throws, that's for sure," Salem head coach Rich Hart said. "That can't happen. You can't go 15-for 27 from the line. That raelly hurt us in the first half. We missed a couple descent shots, we didn't convert. We allowed them to stay in the defense they were in."
The Quakers average 65.6 points-per game this season. At the half on Friday, they had managed just 18.
"I was just glad that it was even. I knew eventually if we kept playing hard we would be alright," Hart said. "We're going to have to win some games like that. We can do it, it's a learning experience, not one that I want to have very often, but we have to learn to deal with some adversity. We did that tonight."
The offense that the Leopards were forcing on Salem was not necessarily in the Quakers comfort level. However, with their experience the Quakers were able to adapt and overcome.
"Last year we would have lost that game," Hart said. "So we gutted it out and played hard. I'm really proud of the way that they played."
Salem once again received valuable contributions from its' bench. Something the Quakers know and rely on when their top-scorers are struggling. At the 2:26 mark of the third quarter, Bush was sent to the bench after committing an offensive foul.
"Again, our bench," Hart said. "We have Wukotich who came in and took the big charge at the end. Mike Madison makes two big free throws. That's how we have to win some of these games. When not everyone is on their best game, our bench steps up and helps."
A basket by Anthony Shivers to open the fourth pulled Salem within two, and Max Wolfgang tied it moments later with a basket off of an offensive rebound.
After a free-throw put Louisville back ahead by one, Shivers reclaimed the lead for the Quakers on a basket with an assist from Wolfgang.
With the Quakers finally out to a lead they had so desperately wanted all evening, the Leopards came back and drew within one. A three by Jake Adams and another basket by Blake Hoover repositioned Louisville with a lead with just more than two minutes to play.
Bush then stepped to the line and connected on two free throws after being fouled, and the Quakers never relinquished the lead.
"Doing it here in the Cabas, and having all of my friends here and everything made it that much more special," Bush said.
"He makes people do what they did today," Hart said. "And that's a tribute to him. It's a great honor for him, there's not many around. It's nice to see all of his hard work come through."
For Bush, the accomplishment is nice to have on his resume, but he is fully aware that his season is not yet over and the feat is just one that wanted to check off in a long line of team goals.
"I just wanted to be really competitive with our team and have a winning season," Bush said. "Hopefully we win the league and I wanted to make it out of districts, we haven't done that in a while. Everyone has been so on board, and I just try to do what I can for my team."
In the midst of a successful season and after a hard-fought victory just moments earlier, Bush paused to think about his career at Salem and the role that basketball has taken in it.
"Basketball has always been my best sport. I put a ton of work in and my dad has helped me so much," Bush said. "I play AAU, and I really put all of my time into basketball. I was always little so i didn't know if I would be big enough, fast enough or strong enough to play at the next level. Now I think I am, and it's exciting to have a chance to play somewhere."
SALEM: 6-12- 9-20-47
LOUISVILLE SCORING: Pavin Parks 2-1-6, Bryce Mathie 0-3-3, Ronnie Carter 5-1-11, Alex Schooley 1-1-3, Jake Adams 3-0-8, Alex Hollifield 1-1-3, Blake Hoover 3-3-9. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 10-17, 43.
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 2-7-12, Mike Madison 1-2-5, Zack Wukotich 1-0-2, Brendan Webb 2-1-7, Max Wolfgang 2-4-8, Anthony Shivers 6-1-13.TEAM TOTALS: 14, 15-27, 67.
Three-point goals Louisville 3 (Adams 2, Parks), Salem 4 (Webb 2, Madison, Bush).