SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – The Salem Quakers came within just seconds of pulling off a big upset over EBC rival Alliance Tuesday night on their home court.  But a jumper by the Aviators’ Gage Ford from the top of the key with only 4-seconds remaining provided a hard-fought, 54-42 win for the Aviators.

The Aviators improved to 7-2 overall on the season, 4-1 in the EBC.  The Quakers drop to 2-9, 1-4 in the league.

“We talked about it before the game that this is going to be a war.  Every league game on the road is tough in the EBC, no matter what the records are.  We knew coming in that they (Quakers) were going to play hard, and play with emotion.  So I was proud of our kids to hang in there with being down eight at the half on the road,” Aviators coach Larry Kukura remarked.

The Quakers either led or were tied with the Aviators for approximately 30 of the game’s 32 minutes, carrying an 8-point, 28-20 advantage into the locker rooms at halftime.  They would also enjoy an 8-point lead at the 3:16 mark of the third quarter before the Aviators came back.

“First thing I said to them is progress,” Quaker’s coach Jeff Andres revealed his post-game comment to his team.  “We had a really good week last week with playing better for longer stretches, and tonight was progress.  We just faltered down the stretch a little bit. If you look at the whole effort, we probably played well enough to win.  But tip your hat to Gage and that shot there.  They (Aviators) are a good team.”

The Quakers would hold a slim 10-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, helped by a three-pointer by Cam Sampson at the end of the frame.  Sampson would end up being the Quakers’ top scorer on the night.

Sampson would collect 20 points in the contest, including 2 three-pointers.  Drew Weir would add 14 points with 3 treys in the contest.

“He is coming along and he works hard,” Andres said of Sampson.  “He is in the gym a lot.  Shooting just about every day on his own.  He has had a couple of monster games in a row and he just keeps getting better and better.”

The Aviators would never take the lead in the second period, but they would tie the contest four times in the frame.  The final time came at 19 apiece before the Quakers would close the stanza with a 9-1 run to hold a 28-20 advantage at the break.

The Aviators would cut the deficit down to just 2-points at 31-29 before the Quakers responded with a 6-0 run to restore their 8-point margin at 37-29 with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter.  The Quakers would hold a slim 40-37 lead at the end of the third period.

“They didn’t do anything to surprise us,” Andres stated.  “We knew they were going to pressure us a little bit, and we knew we had to get the ball to the middle and look up the floor.  We did some of those things, but down the stretch, we have to take care of the ball.”

The Aviators would tie the game at 43 at the 6:07 mark of the final period, and again at 47 with 4:27 remaining in the contest.  They would eventually take the lead with 2:03 remaining, and then Weir would connect on a three for the Quakers with only 33-seconds left to tie the game at 52, setting up Ford’s last-second shot.

The Aviators were led by Brendan Zurbrugg with 19 points, including 4 three’s, and Diego Allen with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Quakers will try to bounce back when they travel to Minerva this Friday.  The Aviators will also be on the road this Friday when they play at West Branch.