SALEM — The players on the Salem boys basketball team would probably prefer to play an uptempo, run-and-gun style game every night. But sometimes that simply isn’t the path to victory.
That was the case last night as the Witches turned to defense and a slow pace to defeat Danvers at its own game, grinding out a 41-38 victory at home.
The Falcons, who came in with an undefeated record, got a good look to tie it with less than five seconds to play, but junior forward Devan Harris’ 3-pointer spun out.
Salem’s secret was turning to an old friend — the 3-2 zone defense that has been a staple in the past, but not this year.
With the long, quick and athletic Rashad Keys playing at the top of the zone and David Kazadi and Bryan Martinez-Rodriguez covering the ground under the basket, Salem (5-1) bothered the Falcons on offense all night.
Danvers started with the game’s first seven points in the opening three minutes of the game, then was held to 31 points in the remaining 29 minutes.
“We played (the 3-2) a little bit against Beverly in the first five minutes (of the first game of the season) and struggled and got out of it. We hadn’t gone back to it,” Salem coach Tommy Doyle said. “We really worked hard at it over the weekend at practice, just trying to get ready for this game because we thought it would be the most effective defense against them. Thankfully, it worked.”
Salem’s return to the 3-2 zone was not a complete surprise for Danvers, but the Witches length allowed them to contest shots on the perimeter while also making life difficult for Peter Merry and Harris inside the paint.
Salem also forced Danvers into 19 turnovers.
“We kind of thought they would do it,” Danvers coach John Walsh said. “We had been shooting the ball a lot better, but we just didn’t shoot it well tonight. Mark (McCarthy) hit four threes and everyone else shot it real poorly. But they challenged our shots and that’s a credit to them. I thought they did a very good job defensively.”