SALEM — Christian Dunston admitted that he and his Salem High boys basketball teammates felt a little trepidation down the stretch last night against Northeastern Conference rival Beverly.
The Witches held a double-digit lead late in the fourth quarter, but finishing teams off has been a problem for them lately.
Salem took a big step toward eliminating its late-game struggles against the Panthers, however, hanging on for a 67-56 victory.
“To be honest, we were a little bit nervous because we knew coming into fourth quarters we’ve been known to give up leads,” Dunston said. “It was pressure, but it was confident pressure. We were like, ‘We can finish this.’ We know we’re capable of doing this, so it was good.”
The Witches had to be trembling a little bit when Beverly started the fourth quarter with a seven-point run that cut a 13-point lead to six (53-47) with 5:06 to play.
Salem, which took a difficult loss to Lynn Classical Friday when it let a fourth-quarter lead slip away, had the answer this time.
Marvin Baez delivered the big blow when he banked in a long three-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock expiring. That shot gave Salem (5-2) a 61-50 advantage with 2:17 to play.
“It wasn’t our night,” Beverly (5-2) coach Scott Lewis said. “Baez throws one in off the backboard and that was like the icing on the cake. But, to their credit, they made plays and we didn’t make enough plays to be successful.”
Beverly had a very good first quarter, controlling the tempo, running through its plays and opening a 19-18 lead in the process.
Then, Salem got a huge boost in the second quarter from reserve forward Davonte Holloway. Holloway scored 11 of his 13 points in the second quarter, including a personal 7-0 run that gave Salem a lead it would never relinquish.