A difficult first half put Alliance in catch-up mode and the Aviators ended up chasing Salem and the scoreboard the rest of the evening in a 59-29 Eastern Buckeye Conference girls basketball setback to the Quakers in Harry Fails Gymnasium.
“They were regional finalists and I expressed that to the girls that you better bring it, and if not, then it’s going to get out of hand real quick, and that’s what happened,” said Alliance (1-2, 0-1 EBC) coach Rod Smith. “Once we realized that we had to up our game, it was too late.”
Salem, which reached the Division II regional final last season against Norton, remained unbeaten at 3-0 overall.
“We knew Alliance is a good team this year,” said Salem coach Sarah Hamilton-Phillips. “I know this year they’re going to get someone in the league because they have the potential. They have the weapons and [Coach Smith] has done a great job really turning their program around, so we came in really focused.”
Smith said playing in the rugged Eastern Buckeye Conference, which put half of its teams in the district and two that advanced to the regional last season, is very challenging and prepares a team for postseason play.
“It’s really like trying to grow a tree in a Redwood forest,” he said. “Everything is so big around you — where are you going to get your daylight, your water and your food from, you know? So any improvement we have as a program, I’m grabbing it.”
Leading the Aviators and tying for game-scoring honors was junior Jayla Callock with 17 points, including a 3-pointer.
“She’s a hard worker,” said Smith of Callock. “That girl has been in the gym all summer long, you can’t get her out of the gym and I’m glad to see her hard work is paying off.”
Mar’Zae Gantz and X’Zaryia Fannin added four points apiece for Alliance.
Salem was paced by senior Abbie Davidson with 17 points, while guard Rylee Hutton added 12. Kami Rohm, Zoie Reed and Kaylee Carlisle all scored seven in the Quakers’ well-balanced offensive attack.
“They all did a great job in their roles,” said Hamilton-Phillips. “Abbie Davidson and Rylee Hutton are very complementary of each other and Kami Rohm handling the ball really gives us different options and then you have Zoie Reed underneath doing the little things that no one really notices, like boxing out and running the floor. It really spreads the defense and we are able to push in transition.”
Salem combined swarming defensive pressure, along with some efficient long-distance shooting at the offensive end, to jump out to a 13-4 lead after one period and outscored the Aviators 22-4 in the second quarter to take a commanding 35-8 advantage at intermission.
“At that time it was about pride,” said Smith. “We showed very little effort or pride in the first half against a good team.”
Salem forced 12 first-half turnovers out of the Aviators (21 for the game), including some which ended up in fast break points at the other end for the Quakers. By comparison, Salem finished with 10 miscues in the contest.
“We just wanted to use our speed and our quickness to try and translate some of those [AHS turnovers] at the offensive end,” said Hamilton-Phillips. “Overall it was a great defensive effort except we got a little sloppy in the second half.”
The Quakers also dominated the boards and limited Alliance to one shot each down the court. The Quakers crashed the glass for a 12-5 advantage in the first half and 25-13 for the game.
But Alliance regrouped and played an excellent second half, nearly matching Salem basket for basket. The Quakers outscored the Aviators 24-21 after intermission but the 27-point first-half deficit was too much to overcome.
Smith was pleased with Alliance’s play in the second half.
“In the second half I was much more pleased with the effort,” he said. “But that’s the part about learning — we have to learn to play four quarters.”
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Alliance Aviators lost to Salem Quakers in Eastern Buckeye girls hoops