Muse and backcourt mate Marvin Baez played huge roles in softening the Beverly (13-6, 10-6) defense early. The Salem duo hit a combined four three-pointers in the first quarter and had 17 of the Witches’ first 19 points.
“That opens up everything else for us because it allows Christian Dunston to penetrate, and Jared (Louf-Woods) to get layups,” Doyle said. “David Kazadi came in and got a couple and-1’s, and Jamie (Dominguez) came off the bench to give us a spark. When things are clicking, it makes us a tougher team to defend.”
While Salem was spreading the wealth on offense, Beverly was having a hard time finding anyone other than Jon Berchoff who could put the ball in the hoop. Berchoff had 17 first-half points as only four Panthers produced points before halftime.
“We really struggled with our rhythm. We have to credit (Salem), I guess. Defensively they took us out of our game and we just didn’t play well at all, really on either end of the court,” Beverly coach Scott Lewis said.
“I thought they outplayed us in pretty much every aspect. They outrebounded us, shot better than we did, and defended better. It was disappointing, but they played like a team playing for a share of the title. They came in and earned it.”
It was still a manageable deficit for Beverly early in the third quarter, but Salem’s lead slowly began to expand. A Kazadi three-point play gave the Witches a 14-point lead (48-34) with 1:52 to go in the third.
Then, early in the fourth quarter, Dunston converted a conventional three-point play and Baez dropped a baseline runner to push the score to 57-40.
A major factor in Salem’s ability to pull away was the defensive effort. Berchoff was held to only four points in the second half and finished with a game-high 21.