Just two days after the offense was unstoppable against Ypsilanti, Saline struggled to find its rhythm against Monroe, and the Hornets lost, 48-40, and were eliminated from the post season.
Monroe and Belleville meet in Friday’s district championship.
Saline struggled for much of the game but turned up the heat late in the third and early fourth quarter to erase a seven-point deficit. Midway through the fourth, after a basket by Ella Stemmer, Saline led 33-31. But McKenzie Peters answered with back-to-back three pointers and then Monroe added another basket to take a 39-33 lead with three minutes to play.
Saline refused to give in.
Nicole Sweetland hit a three-pointer to make it 41-37. Saline fouled a Monroe player, who went 1-for-2 from the line. The Hornets charged down the floor and Liz Sekerak hit a three-pointer to make it 42-40.
It seemed like the comeback was within reach when, on the inbound pass, Sekerak nearly snatched the ball from the Monroe player’s hands, forcing a jump ball and Saline possession. But the Hornets couldn’t capitalize on the possession and Monroe finished the game with six straight points.
It was a tough loss for Saline team that had beaten Monroe twice previously. On top of that, the team had been playing well recently and believed they had a shot to win the district trophy.
“We’ve been playing so well the last few weeks. Then today we came out and we were flat. We couldn’t hit our shots and we turned the ball over a few times,” Saline coach Leigh Ann Roehm said. “It was a disappoint loss.”
The Hornets weren’t helped by Erin Reilly’s injury early in the first quarter. Reilly returned to the game twice but limped around the floor and spent most of the second half icing her injury.
Despite the loss, Roehm looked at the big picture and was proud of her team’s effort.
“If you looked back at our team against Chelsea on opening night and looked at the way we finished, you’d barely even recognize our team. We’ve improved so much,” Roehm said. “I’m so proud of these girls. We’re so grateful for what our seniors did for us and we’re excited about our future.”
Saline is losing two senior starters in Brooke Bauer and Asia Lindsey and another senior leader in Karsten Whitley. Still, a lot of young Hornets gained valuable experience and showed tremendous progress throughout the year. Freshman Ella Stemmer looks like she’ll be a force in the SEC for years to come. She’s not only talented, but she fights as hard as anyone in the paint. Sophomore Liz Sekerak was perhaps the most improved player between game one and game 22. Sophomore Erin Reilly and junior Kelsey Alexander will give other teams fits with their aggressive defense. Juniors Nicole Sweetland and Maddy Welch can shoot the three and play defense. Sophomore Emily Eitzman offers speed and tenacity. Junior Leeya Lawson will help underneath the basket. Juniors Fiona Morcom and Emily Woodman will be back. From the junior varsity squad, sophomores Amera Boyd and Steffi Bentley and sophomore Emily Wilczynski impressed enough to earn call ups for the playoffs.
Roehm thanked the community for its support.
“So much gratitude goes out to the coaches of all levels, athletes, families, and community members that supported us along the way,” Roehm said.
The Saline Post’s 3 Stars
- Ella Stemmer – Led the Hornets with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Battled all night and stayed positive until the final seconds.
- Liz Sekerak – Finished with 11 points, including three three-pointers. She also had two steals and forced a jump ball that gave Saline possession and a chance to tie the game in the final minute.
- Asia Lindsey – Lindsey scored five point and was solid defensively all night.