Salem boys buckle to Struthers

SALEM – The holiday spirit, and momentum, was definitely in Struthers’ court.

Never giving up the lead after Salem played strong defense, the Wildcats relied on 28 big points from junior RayQuan Phifer to give the Wildcats to 58-49 win at John Cabas Gymnasium on Monday, and a much needed victory for the Wildcats’ morale.

“Coming in we lost a couple hard games,” Phifer said. “We hate losing, it just irks us. It showed everyone that we could win.”

Phifer started the Wildcats (2-4) off to a 9-0 run in the beginning, giving them the early shot in the arm.

“That was big for us,” Phifer said. “We needed that. It just showed that we could dominate early which we needed to do.”

As the second quarter progressed, the Wildcats experienced a comeback from the Quakers. Even as the Quakers narrowed the Wildcat lead to one, Phifer never felt out of it.

“We were confident,” Phifer said. “We had been hurt with turnovers from them, but we also kept them into turnovers.”

Phifer also went strong on the free-throw line, going 5-for-6, which was one thing Struthers coach Joe Savko said needed to happen.

“This game was big for RayQuan,” Savko said. “I told him that if he can do well in free-throws, he can post big numbers, and at the same time, it helped us out a lot as well.”

Phifer and the Wildcats continued to play strong, even as Phifer tuned out the “ballhog” chants that were heard throughout the game.

“That’s something I don’t even hear at all,” Phifer said. “That doesn’t even bother me.”

“It’s no secret that Ray is our top option,” Savko said. “Even with Ray, we still have great shooters and rebounders, and just look to continue winning from here.”

The Wildcats also got help from Kyle George, who tallied nine, and Austin Yemma, who scored eight.

The Quakers (2-4) had momentum shift in their direction in the second quarter with steals and scoring drives from Max Wolfgang, who led the Quakers with 26 points as well as D.J. Pullie, who netted 10 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Salem coach Rich Hart feels that even with Wolfgang as their top scorer, more contribution is needed from other players.

“We had another good showing from Max,” Hart said. “We need a bigger contribution from other players, we needed more scoring from them. We’re going to mix things up so that they can contribute more to the game.”

Even with miscues and inconsistencies, the Quakers were able to keep the game close.

“I told them we can’t be turning over the ball as many times,” Hart said. “I don’t know how we turned the ball over so many times and kept the game close, but we did. That’s another thing we need to improve.”

Game notes

– Because of the boys-girls double header, no junior varsity games were played on Monday.

– After the girls game, Raegan Meals was taken to the hospital for evaluations after injuring her ankle with 49 seconds left in the game.

“She rolled bad on her ankle as she fell,” Salem girls coach Steve Stewart said. “She will be going to get X-rays as precaution.”

STRUTHERS: 16-10-14-16-58

SALEM: 9-12-8-20-49

STRUTHERS SCORING: Frank Serrano 0-0-0, RayQuan Phifer 11-5-28, Andrew Carbon 1-2-4, Pat Carden 0-0-0, Todd Wilkos 1-2-5, Kyle George 3-3-9, Troy Noble 2-0-4, Austin Yemma 2-2-8. TEAM TOTALS: 20, 14-17: 58.

SALEM SCORING: D.J. Pullie 3-3-10, Mark Frederickson 1-0-2, Jake Bezon 0-0-0, Tyler Shaffer 0-0-0, Alex Weikart 0-0-0, Andrew Dolphin 0-3-3, Mike Ciotti 2-0-5, Mike Popa 0-0-0, Ryan Hoover 1-0-3, Max Wolfgang 10-6-26. TEAM TOTALS: 17, 12-22: 49.

Three-point goals: Struthers 4 (Yemma 2, Phifer, Wilkos), Salem 3 (Pullie, Ciotti, Hoover).