The Saline Hornet varsity basketball team’s record dropped to 2-3 on the year as they were beaten at the buzzer by the Milan Big Reds 38-37 Tuesday night. It was the first game following the Christmas break and it showed as the Hornets missed the first five shots they took as Milan took an early 7-0 lead. Senior guard Matt Rosati scored on a three-point shot to get the Hornets on the board with 3:42 left in the first quarter.
Saline was able to apply pressure on the Big Reds, forcing six turnovers as the first quarter ended with Saline holding a 14-12 lead. Sloppy play by both teams continued in the second quarter, with each team committing turnovers, only the Big Reds were able to convert four Hornet turnovers into eight points.
The Hornets were out-scored 13-5 in the second quarter which helped the Big Reds to a 25-19 lead at the half.
“The team started slow and kind of sloppy, showing that they had just come off a two-week break. We talked about playing tougher team defense in the second half,” said Saline Head Coach Jacob Fosdick.
His team responded by playing tenacious defense, holding Milan to just two points in the entire third quarter. The Hornets were able to break through Milan’s full court pressure but still couldn’t convert that into points. Saline trailed 27-25 heading into the final eight minutes.
Saline took the lead early in the fourth quarter as junior guard Justin Zylstra nailed a three pointer to put Saline up 28-27. The defense forced Milan into another turnover and junior forward Calder Pellerin converted two free throws, two of his game high 16 points scored in the game. The Hornets upped their lead to seven with three minutes left, 34-27 after Pellerin took an in-bounds pass down the court for an uncontested lay-up. With 1:13 left, Pellerin hit two free throws to give the Hornets a 36-31 lead.
With 1:13 left in the game, the stingy Hornet defense had allowed the Big Reds to score four points in the second half. Four.
But as in the game against Ann Arbor Huron, closing out games when in the lead proves difficult sometimes. Milan scored seven points in the final minute, including a basket in the paint with less than one second left to snatch the victory from the Hornets.
“We extended ourselves to catch up, then softened up defensively and that cost us,” said Coach Fosdick after the game. “I had the team protecting the three point line and they were able to score some easy points under the basket. Everyone in the locker room is upset over this loss. We have the community and the school behind us and it means everything to this team to be successful.”
Missing key free throws down the stretch also hurt the Hornets. “We will continue to work of making clutch free throws. But there is no one I’d rather have on the free throw line than Ryan Foley. He is one of the leaders on this team and he wants to have the ball when the game is on the line,” Coach Fosdick added.
The Hornets were led by Pellerin’s 16 points and 4 rebounds, followed by Rosati with 9 points and 6 rebounds. Justin Zylstra chipped in 5, Adam Head 3 and Emmett Turner and Jacob Finkbeiner 2 each. The Hornets get back into action Friday night as they travel to Bedford High School. Tip off time is 7 pm.
The Saline Post Three Stars:
1st Star: Calder Pellerin
2nd Star: Matt Rosati
3rd Star: Ryan Foley