The 2015-16 Saline Hornet varsity basketball team’s starting line-up features a sophomore, three juniors and one senior. By any measure, it is a young team. And the season has featured the strengths and weaknesses of a young team. The game Thursday night at Monroe High School featured a lot of both.
Saline clung to a slim two point lead in the final seconds of the game. In desperation, the Trojans fouled the Hornets but the team did not convert on those critical free throw attempts giving Monroe a last-second basket which tied the teams at 40-40, sending the game into overtime. In the extra period, the Trojans hit a long three point shot, which started them on a 15-2 run, leading to an easy win 60-45. Saline was out-scored in the four minute OT 20-5, dropping their season record to 5-8.
“We started slow, shot poorly and missed easy shots. Rosati and Pellerin are the scorers on the team, and when the opposing team’s defense is shutting them down, we really struggle to put points on the board,” a subdued head coach Jacob Fosdick said after the loss.
Senior guard Matt Rosati was held to three points in the contest, junior forward Calder Pellerin to eight. Saline got off to a slow start, being outscored 12-4 to start the game to a very physical Monroe team.
During the break between quarters, Coach Fosdick was very animated in the team’s huddle, imploring his team to play tough, to hustle, to care. Apparently the message was received as the Hornets put the sting back into their play, forcing Monroe into five second quarter turnovers, and outscoring the Trojans 14-13, to head into the locker at the half down 25-18.
The third quarter had all of the strengths of a young team on display. Their defense was ferocious. Scrambling after a loose ball, junior guard Ryan Foley ended up in the third row of the bleachers. Senior forward Adam Head came off the bench and helped to force Monroe into six third quarter turnovers as Saline outscored Monroe 12-6, trailing by one 31-30 heading into the final quarter.
While the third quarter featured everything that is fun to watch about a young team, the fourth featured some of both. A coaching staff can teach young players a lot of things, and the varsity squad has shown improvement through the season. There is no denying Coach Fosdick’s players are well conditioned. And they are smart. When instructed to run Boston, Houston, zipper, juice, Texas, Ohio or chop, the players know exactly what to do. But one of the characteristics of a consistently winning team is one that this young Hornet squad is still mastering – mental toughness. Senior guard Matt Rosati brings it game after game. You see flashes of it from the rest of the team. Unfortunately, you also see lapses of mental toughness at critical moments in a game. When an opposing team is desperately trying to catch up, it is mental toughness that allows players to make free throws at critical moments, prevent offensive rebounds or not committing turnovers that give the opposing team extra possessions with the ball. The fourth quarter and overtime period had all of those things happen which doomed the team to defeat.
Saline regained the lead early in the fourth quarter on the strength of Head, who scored 11 points in the game. Pellerin converted on two free throws to give Saline a 34-31 lead with 6:02 left. Monroe then went on a 7-0 run, helped in part by two Saline turnovers before Finkbeiner hit a three-point shot to get his team within a point, 38-37 with 3:30 left. A minute later Foley hit a jumper to give Saline a 39-38 lead. Following a Saline time out, Monroe immediately fouled Finkbeiner, who went to the line with 31 seconds left, shooting two free throws. Converting both shots would have given his team a three point lead. Finkbeiner hit one of two, giving Saline a 40-38 lead. Monroe took the ball down the floor, put up a shot which rolled off the rim but the Trojans got the rebound, kicked the ball outside, and passed to their center under the basket who hit a short jumper with less than ten seconds left. Saline did get off a desperation shot of its own, which had a lot of contact on the play but the shot missed, there was no call on the play and the game headed to overtime.
The overtime period was all Monroe, as they outscored the Hornets 20-5 to win the game 60-45, dropping Saline’s record to 5-8 on the year.
Coach Fosdick praised senior guard Adam Head.
“Adam played the best game of his high school basketball career tonight. The kid played his heart out and scored 11 points and was very tough on defense,” Fosdick said.
The Hornets get back into action next Friday traveling to perennial SEC power Ann Arbor Huron. Tip off time is 7 p.m.
The Saline Post Three Stars:
1st Star: Adam Head (11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists)
2nd Star: Jacob Finkbeiner (14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists)
3rd Star: Ryan Foley (4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists & his defensive game of the year)