By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — The Salem High boys basketball team’s season came to an end last night with its 82-69 loss to Brighton in the North Division 2 quarterfinals. The game itself was over before the end of the third quarter.
Salem trailed by just three points at the half, but the Witches went ice cold from the field in the third quarter scoring just seven points in the eight minute span as the Bengals held a 61-46 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
“We got some good looks early on in the second half. Unfortunately they didn’t fall,” explained Salem head coach Tom Doyle, whose team finished the season 16-6. “When that happens, we give them good shots on the other end and they knocked ‘em down and were able to take a good lead.”
Salem showed life early in the fourth quarter when Christian Dunston and Marvin Baez were able to create a few turnovers in the press that led to fast break points. Still, Salem was only able to cut the lead to 11 points before the Bengals were able to distance themselves for good.
“They’re pretty good shooters and we knew that, so we tried to get out and make them take some long ones,” said Brighton (17-6) head coach Hugh Coleman. “Luckily for us in the second half they took a lot of long ones. It was just one of those nights. I’d like to say our defensive pressure had a little to do with it but I’m sure the ball just didn’t fall their way tonight.”
Nick Simpson went off for a game-high 29 points scoring from the paint and from long range. Malik James chipped in 25 points and was crucial in the second half driving to the basket and opening up shots from the outside.
Salem was led by seniors Billy Muse (15 points) and Christian Dunston (13 points) but a couple of touch fouls put Dunston in jeopardy early, and he fouled out halfway through the fourth quarter when he was whistled for a block. Dunston had appeared to beat James to the spot, but the officials felt enough contact was initiated on Dunston.
Before he fouled out, Dunston recorded his 1,000th career point at Salem and after the game Doyle praised the four-year varsity player.
“It’s been an unbelievable four years for him. He came up as a freshman midway through the year and was on the team that went to the (TD Banknorth) Garden,” noted Doyle. “He’s shared so many great moments here and has blossomed into one of the better players on the North Shore. We’re lucky to have him and we wish him the best of luck going forward.”
The guy who looks poised to take over for Dunston is Jamie Dominguez and if last night’s game was a little taste of the future, Doyle and the rest of the Witches are thrilled.
Dominguez worked his way into the lineup about halfway through the season and through his play earned significant time on the court. Last night, when Baez’ (nine points) shot wasn’t falling, Doyle looked to Dominguez off the bench and the junior came through with 12 points.
Dunston, Jared Louf-Woods, Emilio Beato, Muse, Jassiel Ramirez, Christian Almonte and Bryan Martinez-Dominguez all suited up for their final games for the Witches and while the result wasn’t the desired one, Doyle had some kind words for his seniors after the game.
“I am so proud of these kids,” said Doyle. “They played hard to the whistle and did it all year long. It’s a shame it had to end but the kids played as hard as they could.”