Ask any parent and they will tell you that your kids grow up right before your eyes. They will also say “well my kid has always struggled with… and boom, one day, the kid does it with a precision not previously seen.
And they ask themselves, “whoa, did you see that? How did that happen?”
Such was the case Monday night at the Lincoln High School gym. The Hornets opened play in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) March basketball tournament with an impressive 60-48 victory over the host Lincoln Railsplitters. Saline faces Monroe at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lincoln.
Trevor Arico scored eight of Saline’s ten first quarter points on the strength of two three-pointers and another short jumper, while senior forward Emmett “The Beast” Turner took a Griffin Yaklich pass under the basket to net the Hornets’ other two first quarter points. The Hornets and Lincoln played to a 10-10 first quarter tie.
The teams traded baskets early in the second quarter, with the ‘Splitters taking a brief 12-11 lead.
The Hornets then went on an 8-0 run, highlighted by the Yaklich and Arico scoring machine. Saline also played stifling defense in the second quarter limiting Lincoln to just five points and forcing five turnovers. Saline went into the locker room up 21-15 at the half.
Saline’s sensational sophomore guards, fondly known as “Thunder” & “Lightning,” Trevor “Thunder” Arico and Griffin “Lightning” Yaklich, combined to score 19 of Saline’s 21 first half points, to take command of the game.
“As far as I’m concerned, they play like they are juniors or seniors,” said Saline Head Coach Jacob Fosdick.
Arico scored a season-high 29 points while Yaklich netted 16.
“When you look at the teams they have faced, all the Ann Arbor schools, Novi, Bloomfield Hills, Chelsea, Howell. These are all very good teams. You play a season like that, it prepares you come March,” Fosdick said.
Heisler came off the bench and played a strong game for the Hornets over the last two quarters. He finished the game with three points, nine rebounds and four assists. He was especially strong in the fourth quarter, guarding Lincoln’s 6’6” big man Tate McKenzie, holding him scoreless while snagging five rebounds. Heisler’s play was key in limiting Lincoln to just one shot on each possession in the second half.
Arico scored eleven of Saline’s twenty third quarter points as they outscored Lincoln 20-19 and had a 41-34 lead heading into the final quarter.
Lincoln cut Saline’s lead to seven 43-36 with 7:27 remaining. But Yaklich grabbed a loose ball, dribbled through the Railsplitter defense to sink an under-handed layup and then converted a free throw and just like that, Saline was comfortably ahead. And that is where they stayed for the rest of the game.
Throughout the season, there were stretches where Saline’s “Thunder” and “Lightning” combination struggled. You could tell they were young and inexperienced in playing at the varsity level. They made mistakes. But their coaches and teammates never gave up on them.
Senior co-captains Emmett Turner and Erik Wenning never gave up on them. The captains hung in there with them as they learned. And improved. The captains remained positive and encouraging no matter what.
And Monday night in the Lincoln High School gym, the sophomore pair played like veterans. One fan said following the game, “if Saline can score 60 points in a game, they will win every game because their defense is able to shut down any opponent.”
But that is a big if. Saline’s offense has struggled at times this year. And while Arico and Yaklich scored 45 of the teams’ 60 points, with Turner adding 10, the remaining players combined to score just five. Hopefully, if opponents find a way to stop Thunder and Lightning, the others will rally to carry the scoring load.
And I’m sure the Saline coaches will have a contingency plan for just such a thing.
Arico credited his teammates and especially assistant coach Jason Rushton for helping him work on getting open off of screens set by his teammates.
“Coach Rushton worked with me in practice, over and over, on how to use a screen to get open and take a shot,” Arico said.
Whatever they practiced, it worked on Monday night.
Saline gets back into action on Wednesday taking on the Monroe Trojans. The game will be played at Lincoln. Tip off time is 7 p.m. In the other game Monday, Belleville beat Bedford, 64-44, and will play Ypsilanti Wednesday in the other semifinal.
SALINE POST THREE STARS OF THE FAME:
1st Star: Trevor “Thunder” Arico (29 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists)
2nd Star: Griffin “Lightning” Yaklich (16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists)
3rd Star: Emmett “The Beast” Turner (10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist)
Honorable Mention: Adam Heisler (3 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists)