A fourth-quarter onslaught — punctuated by a slick behind-the-back pass exclamation point — fueled Salem’s girls basketball team to a 59-45 victory Friday night over visiting Canton.
The triumph — which the Rocks led just 40-38 after the third quarter — assured Salem will maintain sole possession of first place in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s West Division.
The Rocks improved to 9-1 in the division and 12-5 overall. Brighton entered Friday night’s game agains Howell one game back of the front-runners.
Salem, which was projected to finish fifth in the division in a pre-season coaches’ poll, has a pivotal pair of games in the coming week: Tuesday at Hartland and Friday at home against Northville.
The winners’ sealed the rivalry win with a 15-2 run to open the fourth quarter.
Drive down Madison Avenue
Madison Morson, who led all scorers with 31 points, netted 11 in the final eight minutes. With 3:39 left and the Rocks up 10, Morson was on the receiving end of a behind-the-back dime from Shahd Bakkar — a play that had Salem bench players high-fiving and the home team’s fans roaring with did-I-just-see-that? joy.
Bakkar finished with 11 points and four assists. Senior guard Ashley Kopacko poured in 15 points — nine the result of three nothing-but-net triples.
Canton, which dropped to 3-7 and 7-10, respectively, was the slightly superior team for the first 20 minutes, building a five-point advantage mid-way through the third quarter. The taller Chiefs won the rebounding battle 32-19, but ultimately succumbed the smooth skills of Morson, who Salem Head Coach Rod Wells labeled one of the top five juniors in Michigan.
Senior Rachel Williams led Canton with 14 points while Justice Tramble registered a double-double (13 points and 14 rebounds). Seven of Tramble’s rebounds were offensive.
Chiefs played well until the end
Junior Marisa Cribari contributed 10 points and six rebounds to Canton’s cause. Canton’s Maya Joiner secured eight rebounds and a single bucket.
Canton led 26-24 at the half before Salem rallied to seize a 40-38 lead with eight minutes to go. That’s when the Rocks turned on the after-burners.
The Rocks turned up the defensive heat in the second half, applying several half-court traps that forced the Chiefs out of their fluid first-half offense.
Senior guard Isabell Kulick didn’t score for Salem, but she played tight defense and finished with three rebounds.