The Saline varsity boys basketball team went on the road Tuesday night to grit out a 35-32 win over the Dexter Dreadnaughts to raise their season record to 4-4. In a game where both Saline coach Jacob Fosdick and Dexter varsity coach Tim Cain threw their hands up in disbelief over the officiating, the Hornets applied a smothering defense for four quarters and made key shots when needed to win a close game.
“We have lost a few close games this year so it was time for us to win one,” head coach Jacob Fosdick said. “I was very proud of the effort the team put forth the entire game. We have worked hard in practice to maintain our focus and intensity through four periods and it paid off for us tonight.”
Saline jumped out to an 11-2 first quarter lead on the strength of three point shots from senior guard Adam Head and junior forward Calder Pellerin. The Hornet defense was a highlight of the game considering Dexter scored 49 seconds into the game which tied the score at 2-2. The stingy Hornet defense shut the Dreadnaughts out for the remaining 7:11 of the first quarter. The Hornets carried that defensive pressure into the second quarter allowing the Dreadnaughts just eight points, for a first half total of ten. Six of Saline’s eight second quarter points came from beautiful three point shots from the top of the key by senior guard Matt Rosati. The Hornets went into the locker room leading 19-10.
The referees became the stars of the third period, starting by calling three offensive fouls on Pellerin in the first 1:22 of the quarter, sending the Saline big man to the bench. This was followed by a technical foul being called on sophomore forward Emmet Turner for “too aggressively going after a loose ball with a Dexter player,” which was followed immediately with a technical foul being called on Coach Fosdick for saying “what were you looking at? I saw the play and there was nothing there.”
The Dreadnaughts converted on all four foul shots and on the ensuing possession to knot the score at 24-24. Junior guard Jacob Finkbeiner hit a ten-footer to provide Saline a 26-24 lead going into the final quarter. Fouls in the third quarter were 8-3, putting Dexter in the bonus for the fourth quarter.
The Hornets’ defensive effort forced Dexter into seven second half turnovers, while Saline committed only one, with no turnovers in the fourth quarter. Pellerin converted on two free throws at the 5:41 mark to give his team a 28-26 lead, which was followed by a huge three point shot by junior guard Justin Zylstra which upped the lead to 33-28. The Hornets were up by four 35-31 with 1:20 to play with Rosati going to the free throw line to shoot a one-and- one, which he uncharacteristically missed. Dexter converted one of two free throws to pull within three, 35-32 with :45 left in the game.
Following a Dexter timeout, the Dreadnaughts immediately fouled Rosati. The senior guard again went to the free throw line and missed but Saline snagged the rebound and put up another shot which rolled off the rim and was rebounded by Dexter. Following a Dexter time out with :03 left, the Dreadnaughts attempt to inbound the ball was intercepted by Zlystra who took one dribble and threw the ball to the rafters as the buzzer sounded and the Hornets walked off with a hard fought 35-32 win.
“We are the best defensive team in the SEC.” head coach Fosdick said after the game, “and this game will just reinforce that. We held that team to ten points in the first half, and less than 40 for the game. That’s playing great D.”
Fosdick pointed to the play of junior guard Justin Zylstra as an example of a player making key plays at key times in the game.
“Justin made plays for us that were huge. He had the big three pointer, and then stole the in-bounds pass at the end of the game. Every game, every player keeps getting better and better.” Fosdick added, “but we will still keep on working on free throws. If we had hit some of those down the stretch, we could have put the game out of reach.”
Saline out-rebounded Dexter 26-14 for the game, and forced 15 Dreadnaught turnovers while committing just 7.
The Hornets get back into action on Friday when they travel to Ann Arbor Skyline. Top off is 7pm.
THE SALINE POST THREE STARS:
1st Star: Calder Pellerin (10 points & 7 rebounds)
2nd Star: Matt Rosati (8 points & 6 rebounds)
3rd Star: Justin Zylstra (3 points & 2 rebounds & 1 game wining steal)