SALEM - Another NBC game. Another vanishing lead. Another frustrating loss.
The Salem Quakers suffered their third-straight conference defeat, falling to Minerva 73-68 at the John A. Cabas Gymnasium on Friday night. The loss came despite a 21-5 Salem lead in the first quarter and double-digit performances from four different Quakers. Salem also led in second, third and fourth quarters but couldn't close the deal.
It seems to be a reoccurring theme. The Quakers opened NBC play with a double-overtime loss to West Branch. Salem led throughout the game. Next was a last-possession defeat to Marlington. The Quakers lost their footing in the final two minutes on the Dukes' home court.
"We can't close," Salem coach Rich Hart said following his team's latest heartbreaker. "It's frustrating because we had a chance. The bottom line is Minerva executed and we didn't."
Execution came easily for the Quakers in the opening quarter. Salem scored from all over the court with Ryan Bush dropping in nine outside points in the first and Anthony Shivers getting the job done inside with 10.
The quarter would end with Salem up 21-9, but the Quakers couldn't maintain the big lead. The Lions responded to Salem's 21 first-quarter points by notching 23 of their own in the second. The Quakers managed 14 - Max Wolfgang stepped up inside with six points - to hold on to a 35-32 advantage at the half.
Minerva would go on to tie the game at 58 after three complete quarters.
"We have to play smarter basketball, Hart said. "We forced too many shots in the second half. We forced the ball inside the paint. In the first half, we scored 22 points inside the paint. In the second half, we scored eight. We have to make better decisions. We played hard but we didn't play smart."
Despite allowing the Lions 42 points in the middle quarters, it was still the Quakers' game to lose in the fourth. Salem pulled ahead by as many as six points in the final frame, but like it's other two league games, stumbled in the final two minutes. Salem turned the ball over, missed shots, failed to come up with key rebounds and - perhaps most damaging of all - couldn't get a stop when they desperately needed it.
"Defensively, we were awful," Hart said. "We didn't stay on our feet. We couldn't make a stop. We have to do better than that."
Shivers scored a Quakers-high 18 points on the night. Bush added 17, Trent Kenreigh came up with 17 and Wolfgang chipped in 12.
Minerva's Eli Maurer had the game high. He dropped in five from the field and 11-of-11 at the line - including two in the final seconds - for 22 points. Jantsen Locke scored 15 points, while Tyler Klimko notched 10.
The Quakers are now 2-4 on the season and will look for their first conference win at Carrollton on Friday.
MINERVA: 9 23 20 21 - 73
SALEM: 21 14 17 16 - 68
MINERVA SCORING: Eli Maurer 5-11-22, Adam Anderson 1-0-3, Zach Wade 3-1-7, Tyler Klimko 5-0-10, Jantsen Locke 6-0-15, Chase Petree 4-0-8, Jacob Eberling 3-3-8. TEAM TOTALS: 27, 14-20, 73.
SALEM SCORING: Ryan Bush 7-1-17, Trent Kenreigh 6-3-16, Brendan Webb 1-0-3, Max Wolfgand 4-4-12, Anthony Shivers 9-0-18, Brady Myers 10-02. TEAM TOTALS: 28, 8-11, 68.
THREE POINTERS: Minerva (J. Locke 3, Anderson, Maurer), Salem 4 (Bush 2, Kenreigh, Webb).