A journey that began in South Lyon on a Tuesday evening in late November came to an end Friday night at Belleville High School as the Saline Hornets lost to the Lincoln Railsplitters, 61-49 in the district championship game. A season that began with a lot of question marks ended with the hundreds of students, family and friends who showed up to cheer on their team, feeling proud.
Make no mistake, they were disappointed. They wanted to win. They believed they could win. And in the end, they walked away feeling very proud of the way their team competed to the end.
Some might ask how can a 12-point loss be “competitive?”
With 4:50 left in the game, junior guard Trevor ‘Thunder’ Arico hit a three-point shot from the top of the key to give Saline a 46-45 lead. It was that close.
Saline Head Coach Jacob Fosdick has said after many games this season that his team just hasn’t been able to get a key basket or rebound when needed and ended up losing close games.
But this week was different. On Monday night against the Huron River Rats, they found a way to win. On Wednesday evening against the Ann Arbor Pioneers, they found a way to win again. The magic ran out Friday night.
However, unlike when these two teams played in early December, which was won by Lincoln 70-39, the Railsplitters knew at the end of this game, they had been pushed by a team that they had left for dead in December.
Emoni Bates, the 6’9” freshman phenom from Lincoln, who had averaged almost 30 points per game this season, was held to a season low of 19. Bates was scoreless in the first half and had six at the end of three quarters. The Hornet defense once again was stifling.
Arico opened the Hornet scoring when he sank a short jumper to give Saline a 2-1 lead. Junior guard Griffin ‘Lightning’ Yaklich grabbed an offensive rebound and layed it in to up the lead to 4-1. Lincoln then went on an 9-0 run, forcing Fosdick to call a time out. Following the time out Yaklich drove to the basket to cut the lead to 10-6.
With 1:23 left in the opening quarter, junior forward Tyler Belskus hit a three-pointer from the corner to pull Saline within three, 12-9. Arico hit a three-pointer that ended the first quarter with Saline trailing 16-12.
Lincoln opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run to open a 22-12 lead, forcing Fosdick to call a time out. Following the time out, Arico and Yaklich scored all of the Hornet points in the second quarter. As the teams headed to the locker room at the half, Lincoln led Saline 29-21.
Belskus got the Hornets going in the third quarter hitting a three-pointer to cut the lead to 29-24. Evans grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it up, 29-26. It was Evans again taking a pass and putting up a short jump shot and suddenly the Hornets were within one, 29-28.
With 3:56 left in the third quarter, Lincoln’s Bates got his first two points of the game to up the Railsplitter’s lead, 34-28. Arico answered with another three-pointer, 34-31. A minute later, Arico converted an offensive rebound into points, 37-33. With 1:10 left in the quarter, Evans sank another short jumper, and it was 37-35. Arico closed out the scoring in the third quarter with another three-pointer as the Hornets went to the final quarter down one, 39-38.
Fifteen seconds into the last quarter, Arico connected to give Saline a 40-39 lead. A minute later, Yaklich pulled up and sank a ten-foot jump shot, giving the Hornets a 42-41 lead. Seconds later, Yaklich drove hard to the basket and laid in a shot, 44-44 with 5:45 left.
The Hornets worked the ball on offense, got it to Arico who connected on another shot, 46-45 Saline with 4:50 left. Lincoln called a time out. Coming out of the time out, Lincoln went on a 6-0 run.
With 2:59 left in the game, Yaklich missed the first of a one-on-one free throw and Lincoln rebounded. Yaklich made a free throw and Evans converted another offensive rebound but as time was running out on their season, the Hornet shots became more desperate. As the seconds ticked off the clock, the Railsplitters were glad to get out of the Belleville gym with a hard fought 61-49 win.
Following the game, Saline Head Coach Jake Fosdick was proud of his team’s effort.
“I am proud of this team, proud of the way we played tonight and proud of how we competed until the very end. I think we showed that we can play with anyone,” Fosdick said. “We weren’t able to make the key shot or grab the key rebound tonight to win but we never gave up.”
Fosdick was asked about his players Arico and Yaklich.
“I am very proud of Yaklich and Arico. They have worked hard this year to improve and they have. It will be exciting to watch them in the off-season as they continue to work on improving,” Fosdick said.
Fosdick reserved very special words for the two seniors on this year’s squad.
“Pete (Jacobsen) and Logan (Evans) did everything asked of them this year. Their leadership on and off the floor grew throughout the year.” Fosdick said. “Pete has been a very special player for me to coach. He did everything I asked him to do, without complaining. He will always be a special Hornet to me.”
Well, the 2018-19 season is over. I’m not sure there were very many people who thought this team’s season would end in the district championship game. And as the team walked out of the Belleville gym, they were disappointed but they held their heads high.
But it seems that this team, along with their coaches, must have listened to the title song from the movie The Polar Express. The title song in the movie is “Believe.” “You have everything you need, if you just believe.”
They have made a believer in me. And seniors Peter Jacobsen and Logan Evans, join others who have gone before them, into the group of former players who are alums. There were several alums on hand in Belleville to watch them in the championship game. That is what the sign in the commons area at Saline High School means, “Once A Hornet, Always A Hornet”.
Pete and Logan, your school and community thank you. Come back to check things out with the team next year. What you have done for the team this year will be remembered.
For the final time this season, the SALINE POST 3 STARS:
1st Star: Griffin Yaklich 19 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 blocked shot)
Trevor Arico (16 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist)
2nd Star: Peter Jacobsen (0 points, 2 assists)
Logan Evans (8 points, 7 rebounds, 1 blocked shot)
3rd Star: Tyler Belskus (6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist & great defense on Bates)