On a cold, dreary Friday afternoon in February 1980, 39 years ago, ABC sportscaster Al Michaels shouted into his microphone what was dubbed as the #1 sports call of all time: “Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The US Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union 4-3 to advance to the gold medal game against Finland.
It wasn’t exactly the miracle on ice but in front of a standing room only crowd at Belleville High School, the Saline Hornets pulled off their second big upset in three days, defeating the favored Ann Arbor Pioneers, 63-52, to advance to the district final Friday night. The Hornets will face the Lincoln Railsplitters, who defeated the Ypsilanti Grizzlies, 65-56.
The Hornets played the Railsplitters back in early December, losing 70-39 at Saline High School.
In the district semi-final game Wednesday night against Pioneer, Saline senior forward Logan Evans played the best game of his career. Evans hit six three-pointers and scored 27 points, blocked two shots, grabbed five rebounds and had two assists.
Evans hit a short jumper 46 seconds into the game, giving Saline a 2-0 lead. With 7:14 remaining in the opening quarter, Saline grabbed the lead and never gave it up.
Think about that. The Hornets were tied with Pioneer for :46 seconds. The Hornets never relinquished that lead for the remaining 31:14.
Evans followed that opening bucket with his first three-pointer to up the lead to 5-0. Then senior guard Peter Jacobsen hit a three, then another by Evans to give Saline an 11-7 lead.
With 2:38 remaining junior guard Griffin Yaklich sank a shot from in the paint, followed by another three-pointer from Evans. Junior guard Trevor ‘Thunder” Arico closed out the scoring by converting both free throws, giving Saline an 18-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
As in the game against Ann Arbor Huron, the Hornets’ defense was stellar, forcing the Pioneers into six turnovers in the first eight minutes.
Pioneer is a veteran team, led by two high school seniors, Kasean Pryor and Drew Louder, who will graduate and go on to play Division I basketball next year. The two seniors came to life in the second quarter to cut into the Hornet lead.
Evans started the scoring for Saline on Saline’s initial possession, sinking a short jumper on the baseline. Pioneer answered with two buckets of their own.
Then Arico started to generate some thunder of his own. Arico hit three consecutive baskets for the Hornets giving Saline a 26-18 lead.
Pioneer then went on a 7-0 run, cutting the Hornet lead to 26-25. Jacobsen sank two free throws to up the lead to 28-25 heading into the locker room at the half.
It seemed like every shot Evans took went in. Arico scored ten of his 18 points in the second half, including eight in the third quarter. ‘Thunder’ Arico played his point guard position with precision and poise. His ball-handling and shooting, helped the Hornets keep pace with the Pioneers in the third quarter.
Arico converted two offensive rebounds into points and the hit an amazing turn-around jump shot with 4:33 left in the quarter.
‘Lightning’ Yaklich also contributed four points, including a drive to the basket with 1:32 left to give Saline a 43-39 lead. Evans put an exclamation mark on the quarter by hitting his fifth three-point shot. The Hornets led 46-41 going into the final eight minutes of play.
One of the things that helps an OK team become a good team is having the ability to close out games, playing hard for an entire 32 minutes. For the third game in a row, this Hornet team is doing exactly that. Starting with the final three minutes of the fourth quarter and the overtime period at Adrian, followed by all 32 minutes against Huron, the Hornets knew exactly what they would have to do to finish off the Pioneers.
Pioneer’s Louder hit a short jumper to open the scoring. That was matched by Yaklich. Evans then hit one of two free throws to up the Saline lead to 49-43. Pioneer hit a three.
Arico then drove hard to the bucket to get two back. Evans hit a bucket and Saline was leading 53-47 with 3:28 left.
Pioneer went on a 5-0 run before Evans converted his sixth three-pointer of the game to up the lead to 56-52. Pioneer missed their shot, Yaklich grabbed the rebound and drove the length of the court, getting fouled in the act of shooting. Yaklich sank both free throws. 58-52 with 1:05 left.
Pioneer missed again, Saline rebounded. Yaklich was fouled again and sank a free throw. 59-52 with 53 seconds left. Pioneer became desperate and committed a turnover, one of six in the final quarter.
Following another Pioneer turnover, Evans hit another jump shot to give Saline a 61-52 lead with 39 seconds left. Evans put the exclamation mark on the victory with 15 seconds left. The Hornets forced another Pioneer turnover and punched the ball ahead to Evans.
Evans dribbled from the half-court line and dunked the ball to give the Hornets a hard fought 63-52 win. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Hornet bench and fans erupted in celebration. And for the second time in three days, it was the team from Ann Arbor that walked off the court wondering just what had happened.
Following the game, Saline Head Coach Jacob Fosdick was all smiles.
“Basketball is about experiences. This year, it has been ugly at times, pretty sometimes and everything in between. But we have learned from them all,” Fosdick said. “And you have to give credit to the guy (Logan Evans). He has been huge for us all season. He plays in this semi-final game and plays the game of his life. He was just incredible”.
Fosdick also had high praise for Jacobsen and Arico.
“What can you say about Pete (Jacobsen)? Game in and game out, he is defending the best player from the other team and goes all out, every time,” Fosdick said. “Trevor has just keeps getting better and better. He is guarded heavily by opposing teams and is now able to come off of screens to get quality shots off. And Griffin (Yaklich) has worked very hard to improve his rebounding and it now shows every game.”
The Hornets advance to the championship game on Friday, facing the Lincoln Railsplitters. Tip off time is 6 p.m. at Belleville High School.
SALINE POST 3 STARS:
1st Star: Logan Evans (27 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocked shots, 1 dunk)
2nd Star: Peter Jacobsen (5 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists & fantastic defense)
3rd Star: Trevor ‘Thunder’ Arico (18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists)
Griffin ‘Lightning’ Yaklich (11 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists)