Leading 57-47 with 2 minutes and change remaining in Friday night’s Plymouth-Canton Educational Park showdown against visiting Plymouth, Salem’s boys basketball team appeared headed to a no-sweat victory.
The no-quit Wildcats, however, made the Rocks sweat more than a little, slicing their hosts’ lead to 59-56 before Salem prevailed 64-58.
The down-to-the-wire rivalry match-up was the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West Division opener for both teams.
The atmosphere inside Salem’s gymnasium was electric as both schools’ bleachers were nearly filled — and both fan bases generated a lot of noise in response to their respective teams’ performance.
A layup by Salem junior guard Ryan Peters with 2:10 remaining gave the Rocks their momentary 10-point cushion before Plymouth countered with a pair of long three-point shots — the first a rainbow triple from the corner by junior Ross Kraft and the second a top-of-the-key three by senior Bryce Garbacz — to bring the Wildcats to within 59-55 with 58.6 seconds left.
After Salem missed the front-end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, Plymouth’s Marshall Thorn split two freebies to pull the visitors to within 59-56.
Salem ultimately sealed the win from the free throw line with Peters and senior Pryor Reynolds providing clutch shooting from the stripe.
Plymouth played the final nine minutes without its most-impactful player — Kelvin Amoako, who is listed on the roster as a 7-footer — after he was taken to the training room following an awkward fall with 50.2 seconds to go in the third period. Before his unfortunate exit, Amoako scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and either blocked or altered several shots the Rocks launched from the paint.
Reynolds, a fearless, creative lefty guard, led Salem with 19 points to go along with six rebounds and three steals.
Peters, a crafty, tireless junior guard, netted 15 points for the winners.
Senior guard Brendan Phillips contributed 12 points — including a rare four-point play when he was fouled on a made triple — and three rebounds.
Rummel to the rescue
The Rocks’ unsung hero was senior forward Henry Rummel, who swished a pair of treys and secured two important late-game rebounds.
Senior guard Jerry Peterson was huge for the Wildcats, scoring 22 points and picking up the slack at both ends once Amoako left the game.
Garbacz scored 11 points and Orlando Daniels snatched eight rebounds.
Salem led for all but the opening minutes of the contest. The Rocks secured a 17-12 first-quarter lead, 24-19 halftime advantage and led 43-39 with eight minutes to play.
The Rocks connected on just 15 of 29 free-throw attempts. Plymouth made just six of 15 from the charity stripe.