AUSTINTOWN – The Salem Lady Quakers picked the right time to start playing their best basketball of the year.
Salem ended the regular season with a five-game winning streak, including a win against conference rival Canfield, who at the time was ranked No. 3 in the state. Salem was able to keep that positive momentum going into the postseason as they defeated Aurora 52-25 in the first round of the Division II District tournament.
A combination of a stifling pressure defense, rebounding supremacy and two talented sisters, were all able to come together and let the Lady Quakers take control of the game early on before cruising to victory.
With the game standing at 3-2 in the early minutes, Salem reeled off a 17-1 run to finish off the first quarter. They built their lead thanks in part to strong rebounding work on both ends of the floor, holding a 13-4 rebounding advantage in the first quarter. Senior Katie Scullion alone had four offensive rebounds in the first frame.
The first quarter spurt was exactly what Quaker head coach Jeff Andres was looking for early on. “We did a nice job pressuring people on our full court press and that’s definitely our game plan,” said Coach Andres. “We wanted to jump on them early and I thought we did a nice job of that. From there it was all history.”
Despite the best efforts of Aurora to fight back, Salem was able to prevent them from mounting any serious threat as they took a 30-13 lead into the halftime break. In the first half, Salem’s defense was able to hold Aurora to only 5-for-17 shooting, while forcing eleven turnovers to build up the lead.
Offensively it was the Scullion show as both the sister, Katie and her sophomore sister Amy (Ranked in the top 5 of Ohio recruits for the class of 2010) did the bulk of the offensive work for Salem. Katie finished with a double-double, a game high 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Amy added 14 points and five rebounds.
“They’re great athletes, plain and simple, they’re just fantastic athletes,” said Coach Andres. “We go as they go so to speak. They did a nice job knocking down some shots, getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line.”
The foul line was another area of strength for Salem, starting out 8-for-11 in the first half.
“We started out 6-for-6 from the line early on and when we’re shooting the ball well from the foul line and getting to the foul line, we’re going to be alright,” added Andres.
As if the front court wasn’t already tough enough for opposing defenses to handle with the Scullion sister, Salem has been lifted by the recent return of junior forward Brittney Ritchie. Ritchie, who missed a stretch of time in January with a sprained ankle, was able to make it back the final few games of the regular season, and has given the Quakers another spark off the bench. Saturday afternoon Ritchie finished with eight points and five rebounds.
Ritchie’s return is only one reason of the Quakers success at season’s end. The Quakers struggled in the first half of the season, victims of the Lady Quaker’s volleyball success. Several key pieces of the Quaker basketball team were also members of the volleyball team that advanced to the state final four, which led to some early season struggles. Now it seems all the pieces are falling into place for Coach Andres and the Quakers.
“We’re playing better ball right now then we were at the beginning of the season, which is to be expected coming off some girls playing late into the volleyball season,” admitted Andres. “Really things are coming together right now at the right … I’m really pleased with how we’re playing.”
The Quakers now advance to the sectional final with revenge on their minds. They will face the Hubbard Eagles on Wednesday night, the same team that upset Salem in the first round of last year’s tournament.