SALEM — Attacking the rim can be a dangerous proposition at the end of a basketball game. But on a night when Salem’s shots weren’t falling, senior Christian Dunston wasn’t about to settle for a contested jumper with the season on the line.
The Witches were tied with Winchester coming out of a timeout with 26 seconds left in overtime in a Division 2 North first round game at Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse last night.
Dunston dribbled out the majority of the clock and when the defender gave him the slightest opening he took it, driving hard to the basket and throwing up a spinning shot that fell through to give Salem a 67-65 victory.
“It’s all about being aggressive,” said Dunston, who also drilled a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. “My dad always tells me to be aggressive at all times — and that’s how I tried to play.”
Salem (17-6 overall) trailed by as many as nine and led just twice in regulation, but battled back to advance in the postseason. The Witches host Brighton, which also held off a tough Middlesex League team by beating Burlington 62-60 last night, on Friday in the quarterfinals (7 p.m.).
After Dunston’s trey tied it, 58-58, senior Billy Muse’s steal made sure Winchester couldn’t score again in regulation.
Junior Jamie Dominguez opened overtime with a three to give Salem the lead, but Winchester’s Ryan Murphy (game-high 33 points) made a hoop to tie it again. Murphy and Muse traded buckets and Salem got the stop they needed with under 30 seconds to play to set up Dunston’s final drive.
“It was an isolation play with a few options for Christian,” said Salem coach Tom Doyle. “He could’ve shot or kicked, and when he saw the space he knew what to do.”
The fourth-seeded Witches had a tough time offensively last night, making just 36 percent of their shots from the field. They didn’t allow missed shots to change their defensive intensity, however, and held Winchester (11-10) to just 38 percent, including 2-of-15 from behind the arc.
Trailing 45-38 entering the fourth quarter, Salem made it a priority to attack the basket. The Witches made 15-of-17 from the line, including 7-of-7 in the fourth quarter.
Dunston scored 27 points, shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the line and had nine rebounds. He also led Salem’s press defense with five steals.
It was fellow senior Jared Louf-Woods that gave Salem the biggest lift of all, coming up a with a 15 point, 10 rebound double-double. A Louf-Woods putback gave Salem a brief lead, 51-50, in the fourth and his work on the offensive glass got the crowd into the game late.
“Jared was huge for us,” said Doyle. “His last two games have probably been the best two games of his career.”
Junior David Kazadi had two emphatic blocks and also totaled nine rebounds as Salem got a sizeable lift from the frontcourt as the Witches had the edge in second chance points down the stretch.
“Those guys are the heart of the team,” Dunston said of Louf-Woods and Kazadi. “Without them playing the way they did, we wouldn’t be here.”
Murphy made his first four shots and scored 13 points in the first half as Winchester led 20-19 after one. The Sachems then forced five Salem turnovers in the second quarter to take a 37-29 lead at halftime.
The Witches only made three field goals in the third quarter, but ramped up the defensive intensity and held Winchester to just nine points in the third. That kept the game within reach and Salem made it count by converting in the final eight minutes.
“That’s what we talked about in the locker room afterwards,” said Doyle. “We might’ve left some shots on the rim tonight, but we didn’t let that effect our defense.”
Dominguez scored nine points off the bench for Salem and senior Marvin Baez scored seven, including a 3-of-4 effort at the line.
agateHed:Salem 67, Winchester 65 (OT)
agate_boldCentered:Division 2 North first round
at Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse, Salem
agate_lineQuarters:Winchester@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Mangano 2-0-4, Breen 2-0-4, M. Grassey 5-1-12, Nvule 1-1-3, Murphy 15-3-33, Fitzgerald 1-2-4, J. Grassey 2-0-5. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 28-7-65@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Salem@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Beato 1-0-2, Muse 2-0-5, Louf-Woods 6-3-15, Baez 2-3-7, Dunston 9-7-27, Kazadi 1-2-4, Dominguez 4-0-9. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 24-15-67@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Halftime@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: W, 37-29
agate_lineQuarters:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: W, M. Grassey, J. Grassey; S, Dunston 2, Dominguez, Muse.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: W, 11-10; S, 17-6