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.”