STRUTHERS, OHIO (WKBN) – The second-seeded Salem Quakers will face the top-seeded South Range Raiders in the Division 3 district championship game Saturday afternoon after knocking out the third-seeded Columbiana Clippers 39-33 Wednesday night at the Struthers Field House.
The low-scoring contest featured a stall tactic by the Clippers as they held the ball the entire second quarter after the Quakers grabbed an 8-7 lead at the end of the first period. It wasn’t until with just 3 seconds remaining that the Clippers threw up a shot by Tessa Liggett that sailed wide of the rim.
“To be honest, we kind of knew it was going to happen,” Quakers coach Vince Nattoli commented. “We kind of prepared for it a little bit. We knew if we had the lead we would be comfortable.”
“The strategy was to make them play man, they don’t want to play man,” Clippers coach Ron Moschella explained. “They are bigger than us, it’s hard to penetrate. But if we could spread them out we could score.”
“I’ve seen them play probably 20 of their 23 games, so he (Moschella) goes stall ball at the end of every quarter when he’s winning. And I figured on the road in the tournament, and we beat them earlier in the year, I just expected it. I really did,” Nattoli added.
“The jokes kind of on them, they wasted a whole quarter when they could have scored,” Quakers Echo Mayer-Kutz said. “I think we handled that pretty well because that’s kind of hard. Going hard and then just stopping.”
“It was really weird,” Quakers guard Casey Johnson said. “I didn’t really know what to do.”
The Quakers started to slowly gain some traction in the second half as they would lead 20-17 at the end of the third quarter. That lead was powered by forward Echo Mayer-Kutz who gathered 8 of her game total 13 points in the frame.
Mayer-Kutz played despite having rolled her ankle in practice on Tuesday, “Yeah, I was really scared I wasn’t going to be able to play today. That was the first thing that ran through my mind. I didn’t want to let everybody down.”
When Quakers guard Casey Johnson hit a jumper at the 5:27 mark of the final quarter, the Quakers had built a 6-point 28-22 advantage. The Clippers would cut it down to just one point at the 2:13 mark when Alexis Cross hit the second of two free throws. But Mayer-Kutz would drive to the hoop twice resulting in fouls and she converted the opportunity hitting all four attempts in the final minutes.
“It’s very nerve-wracking at some moments because I was double-teamed. It’s hard to pass because f their pressure,” Johnson said of the Clippers defense.
“My kids played their butts off,” Moschella remarked. “Undersized, but played as hard as they could. We had a chance to win. A couple calls go one way or another and we could have won that game.”
“I’ll make my decision when I want to too,” Moschella remarked about returning next season. “I appreciate the question, I was waiting for it,” he said with a smile.
The loss overshadowed a tremendous performance by the Clippers Kayla Muslovski who netted 17 points on the night. Alexis Cross would add 10 points.
Mayer-Kutz and Kyla Jamison would each score 13 points to lead the Quakers in the scorebook, while Casey Johnson would tally 11.
Salem and Columbinana Girls Basketball
Salem and Columbinana Girls Basketball x