You can’t lose a heart-breaker unless you play with heart.
Huron outlasted Saline, 67-65, in a double-overtime thriller at Saline High School Friday.
The Hornets twice came back from huge deficits to send the game to overtime. But in the end, despite a valiant effort, the Hornets couldn’t quite pull it off.
Coach Leigh Ann Roehm said she was proud of the way her team played on the floor and supported each other on the bench.
“This is what basketball is all about. We got to play in front of a packed house against a great team and compete in two overtimes,” Roehm said. “I could not be prouder of the effort they gave to fight back, to stay in it. There were countless big plays our players made to stay in it. I was so proud of the way the bench was in it the entire time. I think every single player on the team contributed to making this one of the most memorable nights of my coaching career.”
It goes without saying that Saline pulled out all the stops to try and win the game. But games like these are a reminder that, as driven as people are to win, the opportunity to compete in a game like this is its own reward.
Coach Roehm said that senior Leeya Lawson, who spent the game on the bench, put the game contest in perspective during the post-game meeting. Roehm relayed Lawson’s comment.
“You guys, I want you to stop and treasure this. I want you to stop and remember this moment, because we have three regular season games left. I know for me, I’m going to look back at this and smile,” Lawson told her teammates.
“She reminded everyone to go home and cherish the moment,” Roehm said. “I thought that was such great leadership by her.”
It looked like it might be a tough night for Saline when Huron jumped to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter. All the Hornets had were two three-point shots by Nicole Sweetland. Senior Maddy Welch lifted the Hornets by making a layup and the and-one shot. And then Ella Stemmer also made a layup while being fouled. The Hornets were down 19-11 after one quarter, but they were showing signs of life.
Saline took over in the second quarter. Steffi Bentley and Ella Stemmer each made three baskets in the quarter. Amera Boyd also made a basket. The Saline full court press caused all kinds of problems for the River Rats and Saline made good on Huron’s turnovers. When all was said and done, Saline had gone on an 19-4 run to take a 25-21 lead late in the second quarter. But the River Rats finished the quarter strong and carried a 26-25 lead into halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Saline continued its hot play.
Sweetland forced her way through the lane and gave Saline a 27-26 lead. A short time later, Welch hit a three-pointer and gave Saline a 33-28 lead. After Huron closed to within one, Stemmer hit a long jumpshot to give Saline a 35-32 lead.
But the Hornets shooters went cold.
The Hornets got a few points from the free throw line, struggled from the field. Huron led 40-38 after three quarters. Early in the fourth, the River Rats went up by eight points.
Saline again began climbing back in the game. Amera Boyd made a three-pointer from in front of her bench to make it 52-47.
Saline got the ball back and Stemmer hit a three to make it 52-50.
Late in the fourth, Huron led 56-53. Saline got the ball back and called timeout. They elected to put the ball in the hands of Sweetland – who hit two threes early in the first quarter.
Sweetland hit her shot and tied the game. Saline’s defense held the River Rats off the board in the final seconds of the fourth quarter and the game proceeded into overtime.
In the first overtime period, Huron struck first. But Saline took a 59-58 lead when Boyd scooped up a loose ball and then put up a shot from beyond the key for three points. The teams went into the second overtime tied at 60.
Huron opened the scoring in the second overtime and the Hornets spent the period playing catchup. Down 62-60, Alexander made a long shot, from just inches inside the three-point line, tying the game. Down 66-63, Stemmer fought through the defense and scored to make it a one-point game.
After a missed free throw, Saline got the ball back under their basket with one second left on the clock – not enough time to move the ball into a decent shooting position.
The Hornets lost 66-65.
As great as the Hornets played – they knew it was a winnable game. Normally surehanded at the free throw line, the Hornets went just 14 for 28 from the line.
“Today was one of those days when the ball didn’t fall our way,” Roehm said.
Huron was eight for 13 from the line.
Huron also had too many two-and-three shot possessions because of their rebounding advantage.
Coach Roehm was proud of the way her team battled back from two big deficits. But, she said, the team needs to do a better job getting out front of their opponents.
“We have to stop getting behind early. We’ve got to get out to a great start and do the right things defensively, first, to set us up for success, so we don’t have to feel like we’re constantly clawing back,” Roehm said.
Saline finishes the SEC Red schedule with a 5-5 record. All five of the team’s losses came in the SEC Red.
“It’s an incredibly tough conference. We beat each other up. Pioneer had only the one loss. But everyone else has three, four or five losses. Everyone has beaten everyone else. It’s a tough, well-rounded league. You have to show up for every single night if you’re going to be successful,” Roehm said.
The good news for Hornet fans is Friday's game showed there's absolutely no doubt the Hornets' hearts are in the right place at the end of a long, tough SEC season.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Ella Stemmer – The sophomore led Saline with 23 points and also had three rebounds and five assists. Night-in, night-out, Stemmer leads this team with the poise of a senior captain.
- Amera Boyd – The Saline junior has been a lightning bolt off the bench of late. She’s got the speed of a track star. She’s putting that speed to use defensively and offensively. She’s had a few incredible drives to the net and now she’s hitting clutch three-pointers, in the fourth quarter and overtime too.
- Nicole Sweetland – Lots of girls deserve mention in a game like this. Liz Sekerak didn’t score a point but had a big night defensively (five steals, eight rebounds). Seniors Kelsey Alexander and Maddy Welch had big plays at both ends of the floor. But senior Nicole Sweetland hit the three-pointer that sent the game to OT and finished with two points. She also had four rebounds and five assists.