SALEM OH- The Quakers and the Cardinals earned the right to play for a spot in the district semis. Having not played each other during the season, it would be a fresh challenge for both sides. The tension was high, an opportunity to play West Branch at stake. And both teams would put on a show for a near capacity crowd.
The action started as many would expect, a back and forth affair between two physical teams. Salem’s defense showed up to play in the early goings especially. They would force four Mooney turnovers using their full court press, all of which resulting in points. Kyla Jamison for Salem would make her presence felt, leading the charge with 6 first quarter points. And despite Mooney shooting well from 3 in the quarter, the Quakers finished out the first on a 7-0 to take a 17-11 lead.
Jamison would continue to dominate the paint in the second, 6 more points a big offensive rebound, but Coach Baker’s group responded quickly. The 7-0 run that Salem had in the first was neutralized by a 14-4 run put on by the Lady Cardinals. Sophomore Alaina Scavina hit her first 3 point attempt to give the Cardinals the lead with 2:30 left in the quarter. Coupled with two trips to the free throw line, as well as senior Catie Perry dropping 9 points, Mooney looked in firm control. But, with just mere seconds on the clock, Casey Johnson for Salem hit a buzzer beating floater to tie the game as the teams headed into the locker room, 25-25.
Third quarter play was slow at first. Neither team made a field goal for the first two minutes. Finally, Annie Davidson for Salem nailed a 3 pointer that seemed to spring life into the Quakers. They would go on a 9-0 run and retake the lead. It was Johnson’s defense as well that sparked the run, with two key steals on back to back possessions. Altogether, Salem had 13 steals. Mooney would keep it relatively close, as their free throw shooting kept Salem from pulling away. Perry, Scavina, and Katie Hough were perfect among themselves on their attempts, going 6/6. Salem would carry a lead into the final quarter, 39-36.
Just as she did at the end of the first half, Casey Johnson sensed her team needed a spark. She supplied it with yet another clean steal and 3 point shot, giving the Quakers a 6 point lead. But Salem would fall into some foul trouble, as Mooney got into the bonus with 6 minutes left in regulation. Two more free throws from Perry brought the lead to 4. A couple turnovers back and forth eventually led to a huge 3 pointer from Katie Hough to make a one point game with just minutes remaining. Forced to foul to extend the game, Mooney needed multiple stops. But the front court of Salem, Jaden Hamilton and Kyla Jamison, soaked up every offensive board. The lead goes back to 4. But Mooney would respond again, this time Perry from NBA 3 point range to cut it back to one, with just 50 seconds remaining.
It all came down to free throws, and both Annie and Abbie Davidson found themselves there. Game on the line, they split both of their attempts. But Mooney could not keep Salem down. A final desperation drive from Scavina resulted in no basket, no foul, and the end of the Lady Cardinals season. The final score, Salem 50 Cardinal Mooney 47.
After the game, Coach Vince Nittoli for Salem, when asked about what his message was to the girls as Mooney kept clawing back, said “This is it. This is our season. This is what we’ve been grinding for.” He would go on to say, “It’s grit. They want it just as bad as we do, who’s gonna want it more down the stretch?”
Kyla Jamison led the way for Salem with 21 points. Casey Johnson added 11 points and 5 steals.
For the Cardinals, Catie Perry finished with a double-double scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Alaina Scavina had a double-double as well with 11 points 12 rebounds.
Salem will go on to face West Branch in the district semifinals, while the Cardinals’ season ends on a hard fought, gutsy performance.
*Story Contributed by YSN’s Nate Keiper.