Tension and tempers were rising in a close game between Brunswick and Euclid, prompting warnings to be issued to both teams.
As play was about to resume, Eileen Salisbury glanced toward her concerned coaches, gave them a reassuring smile, then excitedly said, “I’m going to get ejected.”
After a split-second of uncomfortable silence, everyone within earshot — officials, players and reporters — broke into laughter, immediately diffusing the heated situation.
The senior point guard had found yet another way to take over a game, which she has done often during her four-year career for the Blue Devils.
“I get nervous, but I don’t ever get scared on the court, because basketball calms me down,” said Salisbury, who is averaging 14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 2.1 steals and 1.0 blocks this season.
“I was a little worried with how physical things were getting in that game, but my only concern was getting things back to just being about basketball. I love it so much, and I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Salisbury has been the driving force behind Brunswick’s most successful season since 2012-13, leading the squad in scoring and blocks in her third year as a starter. She also is shooting a solid .712 from the foul line and .319 on a career-high 38 3-pointers.
At 5-foot-7, she is capable of playing both guard spots and small forward at a high level, giving coach Halle Schmidt plenty of ways to utilize her all-around skills.
“Eileen’s leadership has been crucial in our success this season,” Schmidt said. “And her approach to each game is something that the rest of the team really responds to. She may have a pretty easy-going personality, but she is definitely a competitor.”
The latter point is especially important since Salisbury seldom expresses her emotions on the court and does not boast an inflated ego, like many other all-league athletes.
Being unflappable and laid back, not high maintenance, also has made her a targeted recruit of coaches at NCAA Division II and III schools throughout the region.
“Eileen knows exactly what to do and when to do it, and she is a great leader on and off the court,” teammate and fellow senior Gabbi Campbell said. “Her defense is insane, and her ability to create plays on the offensive side is huge for us. She’s also a great friend, someone who can make you laugh and a person you can talk to about anything.”
The younger sister of Ursuline College point guard Paige Salisbury and Ohio University pitcher Gerry Salisbury credits their father Scott for stressing the importance of fundamentals and selflessness during her formative years.
Salisbury also praises Paige for taking her under her wing when she was a freshman on the varsity team, which she has attempted to pay forward with the current Blue Devils.
It’s common to see her, Campbell, Angela Fink and Natalie Galaida sitting with younger teammates at Brunswick boys basketball games, while Zak Zografos, Kyle Goessler and Trevor Mackey return the favor by attending their home and away contests.
“Eileen is definitely someone you want on the court with you, especially in close games,” Fink said. “She has a good personality, but when she steps on the court, she is always locked in and going to give it all that she has.”
As Salisbury’s career winds down, she is already in exclusive company as one of three players in the Blue Devils’ career top 10 in points, rebounds and assists (along with Paige and Carol Claridge).
Going one step further, the Salisbury sisters are the only Brunswick players among the top 10 in those categories, in addition to steals and blocks.
“I really like her ability to get to the basket and get others involved,” Zografos said. “Eileen plays hard on both ends and defends the ball well. She’s really fun to watch.”
While Salisbury could wind up as high as sixth on the scoring list, helping the Blue Devils return to the district level is her primary goal in her final month in the program.
If Brunswick can go two games deep in the postseason tournament, it also would allow her to tie Paige for the school record of 94 contests.
“Being part of Brunswick’s all-time leaders hasn’t really sunk in, but I think it’s pretty cool to be mentioned with those great players,” she said. “I still feel like there is so much more that I want to do, but it would be really cool to be up there with my sister. Yeah, that would be pretty special.”