SALEM - With a 70-58 win over Minerva on homecoming night Saturday, the Salem Quakers ensured Tuesday's match-up with Canton South will serve as a de-facto Northeastern Buckeye Conference championship game on Tuesday night in Canton.
Back-to-back nights with a game are tough on any team in any sport, but the Quakers (13-4, 8-3) were able to put a tough loss on the road to Carrollton behind them and come back to earn and knock off the Lions (1-14, 1-9) to stay just one game back in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference.
"We played good as a team and we hussled and kept fighting," Salem senior Zach Economous said. "We're glad to get a win and we want to keep it rolling on Tuesday against Canton South."
Economous finished the night with five points.
Seven of the eight regulars that see extended playing time for the Quakers reached the scorebook on Saturday night. Salem will need all hands on deck against a Wildcat team that upended the Quakers on their own floor on Jan. 4.
"That's what we need to do and I thought we got great play from everyone," Salem head coach Rich Hart said. "Our bench contributed, we didn't turn the ball over as much and we did a really good job on the boards."
Ryan Bush, Anthony Shivers and Brendan Webb all recorded double figures for Salem in the win. Bush and Shivers eached poured in 22 points while Webb added 11 of his own.
"My teammates were doing a great job tonight finding me when I was open," Shivers said. "I was open because our coaches were able to predict what Minerva was going to do and put us in good position."
The Lions, undermatched against the Quakers size and speed, attempted to slow down Salem using a zone.
"Defensively they present a lot of problems with us with their two big kids And then even with Economous," Minerva head coach Pepper Locke said. "So we debated on whether to play some kind of junk defense. We played them two-three the first time and it works fine but they just kind of nudge out to that lead on us and force us to come out in man."
At the half, Salem held a one-point advantage but pulled away with a 41-point second half.
"I'm really pleased with how we rebounded especially in the second half We played really good basketball we passed the ball well we got really good looks," Hart said. "We want to keep the pace going but you have to make some shots and get some stops. They shot the ball well in the first half so we didn't get many chances for transition."
Salem, playing its third back-to-back stretch of the season was able to use its conditioning down the stretch to take advantage of a struggling Minerva team that earned its first win on Friday night.
"It's tough because we basically play eight guys. You definitely dont want to play somebody that's not on a back to back that's for sure," Hart said. "And they had to play overtime last night, you could tell they were a little drained in the second half."
The Quakers have two days to prepare for their rematch and rest their legs from an exhausting 48-hour stretch. Going on the road, the Quakers will need to rely on their conditioning to put them in the best position to claim at least a share of an NBC title.
"We're really just trying emphasize pushing it on the break and getting them tired because we are good condition the team," Shivers said. "If we can get them to wear down but it just starts to snowball."
Minerva won the jayvee game 44-35. Mike Popa led the Quakers with 18 points while Ryan Hoover added 12 points. Chase Cappelli paced the Lions with 10 points.
Taylor Renee Neely was named homecoming queen at halftime. Neely was joined by other members of the court, including Sarah Bobby, Reegan Barnett, Katie Matthews, Carson Kleinman, Lindsey Foster and Faith McGuire.
MINERVA:17-11-11-19 - 58
MINERVA SCORING: Quade Zeedrich 4-0-9, Cody Parrish 0-1-1, Joe Gill 3-0-6, Jantsen Locke 8-2-19, Nick Clapper 3-4-11, Evan Forst 3-0-6, Billy Eyer 3-0-6. TOTALS: 24, 7-8: 58
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 7-7-22, Austin Frank 1-0-3, Mike Madison 0-1-1, Brendan Webb 3-2-11, Zach Economous 2-1-5, Max Wolfgang 2-2-6, Anthony Shivers 9-4-22. TOTALS: 24, 17-25: 70
Three-pointers: Minerva 3 (Zeedrich, Locke, Clapper), Salem 5 (Webb 3, Bush, Frank)