Salem battles Branch on way to EBC title | News, Sports, Jobs

Salem’s Abbie Davidson works in Wednesday’s Quakers win over West Branch’s Chloe Dennison. (Morning Journal/Michael Burich)

BELOIT – One way or another, Salem knew that an Eastern Buckeye Conference title had to run through West Branch.

Even against a Warrior team with a rare losing record.

The Salem Quakers increased their physical presence and finished 11th in the final Div. The Associated Press second poll weathered a tough challenge from the Warriors on Wednesday to earn their share of the Eastern Buckeye Conference title 43-29.

Marlington, ranked fifth in the state in the Div. II AP poll, secured his share of his third straight EBC title with a 77-49 win over Alliance on Wednesday. Salem was last champion with Marlington in the 2020-2021 season.

Salem advanced to 17-2 overall and 9-1 in the EBC. West Branch fell to 8-11 and 3-6.

“After beating Marlington, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road,” Said Salem coach Sarah Hamilton-Phillips. “The return of (Sophie) Gregory has been a great addition to her. We were prepared and knew it was going to be a fight.”

Gregory missed the first eight games of the season with a broken foot. At one point in the season, the Warriors were 4-10 but went into play on Wednesday after winning four straight games.

Gregory and the Warriors scared the Quakers a bit as they took a 23-17 lead in the third quarter. An already physical game became more intense from there.

With West Branch leading 23-22, Salem’s Kaylee Carlisle took on an attack on Gregory that seemed to refocus Quaker focus on the stretch. The Warriors had just a short one-point lead after that.

“It definitely helped” said Carlisle. “Every time we get attacked in a game, our bench goes crazy.”

An early plan to have a smaller player guard the 6ft 2 Gregory didn’t work for the Quakers, so Kami Rohm stepped in to turn the tide.

“We knew we had to shut her down and in the first half he had a little guard on her.” said Rohm. “It did not work. I told the coach to put me on her and that finally shut her up.

Rohm also made an important contribution to the Quakers’ offense with 13 points and nine rebounds. Abbie Davidson also had 13 points, seven of which came from the free throw line after hard takes to the bucket. Davidson also had nine rebounds.

Gregory accumulated 12 points and 12 rebounds.

“We lasted through three quarters and need to get into a position where we can finish it in the fourth.” said West Branch coach Walt DeShields.

Both teams shot 27 percent from the field. Salem was 3-of-18 from three-point country while West Branch was 2-of-19.

Davidson and Rohm combined 6 of 7 free throws in the fourth quarter to really turn the Warriors around.

Salem would have pulled away early with 6:26 in the first quarter with 14:7, but then went almost six minutes without a point.

West Branch was able to bounce back thanks to Salem’s stone cold shooting, but the Quakers showed the rest of the way why they’ve made big leaps as a team this season.

“The win against Marlington really gave us momentum for this game,” said Rohm. “We knew it was going to be a fight when we got in. We just had to keep our composure and play our game through.”

West Branch won the Jayvee game 42-29. Mati Hawk had 12 points for the winners. Salem was led by Muirin Lesko’s seven points.

game notes

• The West Branch girls’ basketball team is not used to having a sub-.500 record this late in the season. The last time the Warriors had a losing season was 1993-94 when the team finished 8-13. The last time the Warriors didn’t finish .500 was the 2015-16 season when the team went 12-12.

The Warriors will be fully staffed with Div the rest of the way into the regular season. Springfield, Tournament Ground #1 IV, is coming to Beloit on Saturday. A trip to upstart Carrollton follows on Monday. The Warriors end the regular season with a trip to Div. I Austintown Fitch on February 6th.

“We’re just concentrating on Springfield, one of the best Div. IV teams in the country”, said DeShields. “We just have to work on believing that we can win the game in the fourth quarter.”

• The Quakers earned second place in the upcoming div. II Section/District Tournament while Marlington finishes third. Canfield earned first place despite a 14-point loss to Salem.

Salem ended up in Canfield’s district tournament. That’s fine with Salem’s players. The Quakers beat Canfield earlier in the season for the Cardinals’ only loss.

“Our coach did something different that threw us off track” said Rohm. “Normally, being number 2 doesn’t put you in the same group as number 1, but we’re okay with that.”

• The possibility of Salem and West Branch meeting again in the tournament is on the table, but it wouldn’t happen until the District Finals if all the cards were right. The Warriors would likely need to beat Canfield in the District semifinals if they survived the section challenges, and Salem would need to avoid an upset against Struthers or Howland in the District semifinals. Howland, the 12th seed in the tournament, is a young team but has shown promise. The Tigers gambled away a 24-point lead over West Branch with a point loss on Saturday.

“If West Branch could take care of Canfield for us, all the better,” said Hamilton Phillips. “If we got to that point and were still there, we knew we had another game to come with West Branch.”

• The 50/50 raffle prize was $163.

• Scoreboard operator Tyler DeShields wore a Tom Brady jersey to the game as a mark of respect for the NFL great, who retired for the second time on Wednesday.

“It’s His Day” said Tyler DeShields.

SALEM: 9-7-12-15-43

WEST BRANCH: 7-9-11-2-29

SALEM SCORING: Zoie Reid 0-0-0, Kami Rohm 3-5-13, Rylee Hutton 4-0-9, Abbie Davidson 3-7-13, Kaylee Carlisle 1-2-4, Lauryn Barton 2-0- 4 . TEAM TOTAL: 13-49, 14-19: 43.

WEST BRANCH SCORING: Baylee Waugaman 0-0-0, Chloe Dennison 3-0-8, Hannah Egli 0-3-3, Carter Shephard 0-0-0, Cami Campbell 0-0-0, Sophie Gregory 6-0- 12, Mikalynn Fitts 0-0-0, Livvie Showalter 2-2-6. TEAM TOTAL: 11-41, 5-6: 29.

Three-point goals: Salem 3-18 (Rohm 2, Hutton), West Branch 2-19 (Dennison).

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