By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — For the second time this season the Salem boys basketball team blew a big, fourth quarter lead against a team from Lynn.
Apparently, the Witches had to lose to learn their lesson.
Lynn Classical overcame a double-digit deficit with two minutes left before taking control in overtime to down Salem, 66-61 on the Witches home court.
Earlier in the season Marvin Baez drained a three-pointer in overtime to give the Witches a one-point win over Lynn English. Baez couldn’t connect at the end of regulation this time around and some forced shots and hurried possessions in overtime led to Salem’s second loss of the season.
“It’s something where we just have to learn to close games better,” said Salem (4-2) head coach Tom Doyle. “We didn’t execute our game plan, they made some key plays and we didn’t. They got off to a good start (in overtime) and we were playing desperately when we didn’t need to be and we weren’t able to recover. It was unfortunate.”
Doyle could only watch frustrated from the sideline as Salem took field goals early in the shot clock, turned the ball over in the back court and allowed a few easy layups. The Witches led 57-47 with two minutes left before Jorge Perez knocked down his first and only trifecta of the second half to tie the game with 11 seconds left.
“We threw a quick little trap (at Salem) and picked up a couple steals,” said Classical (4-5) head coach Tom Grassa. “Every time we got close their (Salem’s) pressure forced us into some bad turnovers. (In the last two minutes) we clawed our way back.”
Eraldo Custodio did most of the damage for the Rams. The senior forward scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half or overtime.
Baez, who had a monster first half with 16 points only scored three more the rest of the way and 16 points from Christian Dunston just wasn’t enough.
Both teams opened the game playing zone defenses. It worked wonders for Salem, which remained in the look throughout the game while the hot outside shooting of Baez, Dunston and Muse forced the Rams to switch to man-to-man in the second quarter.
That didn’t work either and the Witches took a 35-23 lead into halftime.
“They (Salem) shot us out of the straight zone. They have too many deadly shooters between Baez, Dunston and Muse, they just shot us right out of it. Then we tried straight man and that wasn’t effective either,” said Grassa. “Then we played junk (defenses) pretty much the whole second half.”
The undersized Emilio Beato was an animal on the glass grabbing 12 rebounds while playing a high energy game for the Witches.
“(Beato) is a tireless worker for us,” noted Doyle. “He is unbelievable. He gets on the floor, he rebounds and he’s undersized. He plays hard right to the end.”
Dunston (seven rebounds, five assists and three steals) did miss the front-end of a one-and-one just before the game-tying three but outside of that and a few turnovers, the senior had an outstanding all-around game, nearly putting the game out of reach when he closed the third quarter with back-to-back lay ups. On both plays, he stole a pass at the top of the three-point line and took it the length of the court.
He did the exact same thing a third time at the beginning of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 15 points.
Dunston and the rest of the Witches simply couldn’t close but with Beverly (5-1) coming to town on Monday Salem needs to turn things around in a hurry.
“We talked about it in the locker room. I think everyone is ready to learn from it,” said Doyle. “That’s the theme we are looking at. Learn from it and move on. We certainly can’t dwell on it.”