SALEM — On any night it would have been difficult for the Salem boys basketball team to defeat Belmont.
On this night, in a Division 2 North quarterfinal game, it would have taken a near-perfect performance from the Witches.
The Marauders played sharp defense all over the court, got out in transition when the opportunity presented itself, and ran sharp offensive sets in the halfcourt to knock out the Witches, 71-52.
Salem (17-5) also had a major hole in its lineup, playing without senior forward Rashad Keys who was not in uniform and not on the Salem bench due to what coach Tommy Doyle called an “internal discipline matter.”
”It changes something and it’s something we haven’t worked on,” Doyle said about playing without Keys. “It gives some other guys some minutes that usually haven’t been playing. Guys played hard tonight and I’m very, very proud of the way we played. We just didn’t execute and things didn’t go our way.”
Belmont (18-6) will now play Danvers in the semifinals tomorrow night (7 p.m.) at Beverly.
Salem kept the game tight for most of the first half, but the Marauders ended the half on a 9-3 run that pushed their lead to 11 (35-24) at the break.
Salem struggled with turnovers throughout the first half, some forced by Belmont’s defense and others coming from the Witches either rushing or trying to force passes into small spaces.
”It was a combination,” Doyle said about the reasons for his team’s turnovers. “For some reason this year we struggled with pressure. That was kind of our Achilles Heal that we’ve been trying to work on all year. Some games we get better at it and some other games we certainly struggled and we struggled early tonight. That kind of put us in a little bit of a hole.”