By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — The Salem boys basketball team turned the ball over time and again in the second half last night against Lynn English as a
double-digit fourth quarter lead disappeared and the Witches seems to be doing their best to give the game away.
In the blink of an eye, Marvin Baez took it back.
Down by two points in overtime, Baez drained a deep three-pointer off an in-bound pass with two seconds left as Salem survived a furious English comeback with a 84-83 win.
“That was probably the best shot of my career. I couldn’t believe it,” explained Baez. “We were down so I was just hoping it was in.”
After Fred Hogan missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Christian Dunston grabbed the rebound and headed up the court as head coach Tommy Doyle called for time out. On the ensuing inbound, Billy Muse ran to the corner while Jared Louf-Woods and Emilio Beato set a double-screen for Baez, who caught the pass from Dunston, didn’t hesitate, and knocked down his second trifecta of the extra period.
Salem (2-0) had led by 15 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter before the Lynn English pressure defense finally seemed to begetting to the Witches.
“We went from the highest of highs up 15 (points) and looking good, to the lowest of lows down points and looking like its over,” said Doyle. “Our kids just never quit, they held their heads high and they worked their butts off. They stayed positive and they stayed together and it worked out great.”
The Bulldogs (1-1) tried to trap all game and sent constant, relentless pressure at Dunston (21 points), who was brilliant in the first quarter and made big plays for the Witches down the stretch.
Salem led 50-37 at the half before English dialed up the defensive intensity and took Salem out of its game.
“Our defense creates our offense and that’s what did it for us-getting up and down the floor and getting turnovers,” said Lynn English coach Mike Carr. “We really don’t love to run a lot of sets but we spread the floor.”
More than anything, the Bulldogs never let up. It’s one thing to simply not give up when you’re trailing double-digits but another entirely to play every possession like it’s the last possession of the tie game.
“I think that’s what they count on-wearing you down by throwing constant pressure at you. They did a great job of being relentless and coming at you,” said Doyle. “It didn’t matter what the score was, they kept coming.”
But the Witches had some relentlessness of their own in the form of seniors Louf-Woods and Beato (15 points), who had four offensive rebounds in the first half while Louf-Woods scored all of his 10 points in the second half and overtime. Louf-Woods took a pair of charges including a big one in the final two minutes of the fourth with Salem clinging to a four-point lead. He also had two offensive rebounds in the overtime.
“They are both tireless workers down there (in the paint). There is no quit in either one of those kids,” Doyle said of Beato and Louf-Woods. “They go hard the whole game, no questions asked. They dive on the floor and get loose balls. They will do whatever it is for the team to win. They don’t care if they score two points or 20, they’re all about the team.”
In overtime, Dunston had two points, two assists and two defensive rebounds. He covered Hogan (20 points) throughout the game including English’s last possession of regulation. Hogan actually had Dunston beat but Baez came over to help and stole the ball to ensure the game went to the extra session.