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.”