ROCK STEADY! Salem holds off Chiefs for District title

 ROCK STEADY! Salem holds off Chiefs for District title

Salem players hold up their Class A District tournament trophy.

Facing a three-point deficit early in the second half of Saturday’s Class A District girls basketball game against Canton, Salem turned to its star, whose initials happen to be M&M.

And how sweet Madison Morson played over the final 14 minutes, netting 16 third-quarter points (and 30 overall) to lead Salem to a 44-33 victory over Canton.

The triumph, Salem’s first District title since 2009, propelled the Rocks (18-6) into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. regional semifinal contest at Saline against either the host Hornets or Belleville.

Morson’s heroics were necessary to offset the magnificent performance of Canton junior Jestice Tramble, who scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to keep her team in the hunt for the crown.

Madi Morson lays in a breakaway shot
Madi Morson lays in a breakaway shot

Close until the very end

The Chiefs, who lost three times to Salem this season, trailed just 35-30 with 4:10 left after junior Marisa Cribari swished a three-point shot from the corner; however, Salem converted enough free throws down the stretch to win comfortably.

“It was the third time we played them this year, so you learn a little bit more and more each time you play a team,” said Morson, who grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. “We knew it was going to be a battle. It was just like when we played them at home — the first three quarters were a little rocky, but we picked it up in the fourth quarter.

“In the first half, our defense was mediocre, so we knew we had to up our effort on the defensive end in the second half. Once we did that, our offense flowed more because we were getting more transition points.”

The Rocks were bolstered by senior Ashley Kopacko’s nine points and five rebounds. Senior Shahd Bakkar was held to two points, but she proved invaluable as the winners’ floor general while securing five boards of her own.

Chiefs own the boards, Rocks the scoreboard

Junior Maya Joiner collected seven points and six rebounds for Canton while Cribari hauled down seven rebounds to go with her three-point basket.

Led by Tramble, Canton outrebounded Salem, 36-25, but was hurt by 13 turnovers. The Chiefs hit just 10 of 48 field goals against Salem’s ever-changing defensive looks.

Saturday’s victory — the game was moved from Friday night due to the snowstorm that hit southeast Michigan — completed a triple crown for the Rocks, who have earned Kensington Lakes Activities Association Division and Conference titles in addition to their first district championship since 2009.

The Rocks have won 15 out of their past 16 games — the most impressive coming in the KLAA championship game when they clipped state-ranked Wayne Memorial, 67-64, in overtime.

Canton forward Justice Tramble drives against Salem Saturday afternoon
Canton forward Justice Tramble drives against Salem Saturday afternoon

“It feels amazing,” said Morson. “We’re breaking records and exceeding pre-season expectations. Hopefully, we can keep it going in the regional.”

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