Tuesday night nine kids, men really, said farewell to the gym that they have called home for the last four years. Mitch Carter, Preston Filla, Jacob Finkbeiner, Ryan Foley, Nate Gresser, Nick Herrin, Sean Millspaugh, Calder Pellerin and Justin Zylstra played their last game as a varsity basketball player for Saline High School.
It was senior night. There was a large crowd to make noise. Their parents were on hand to watch, with pride, their young charges put on a show. Each senior was introduced with their parents in a pre-game ceremony. And in a moment reminiscent of the 2017 Oscar’s oops moment, the public address announcer was asking the crowd to give the seniors a hand, only senior co-captain Ryan Foley, with his parents Tom and Shelly Foley, were standing in the wings waiting to be announced. Thankfully, junior forward Emmett Turner, along with teammates Connor Terech, Adam Heisler, Erik Wenning and Trey Schrzan jumped up and down, screaming and waving their arms to draw attention to the fact that their captain was waiting. The public address announcer quickly recognized the mistake, and announced Foley and his parents to a thunderous, standing ovation from the Saline faithful. The evening was well deserved recognition for a group that, along with last year’s seniors, has been singularly responsible for the resurgence of basketball at Saline High School. The players, the coaches, the parents and fans have turned the gym at Saline High School into a true hornet’s nest for opposing teams.
The script was written. The stage was set. Five seniors were announced in the starting line-up, including team and fan favorite Nate Gresser to put an exclamation mark on the season. Unfortunately, the Chelsea Bulldogs didn’t get the memo and pulled off a 44-34 upset win. The coaches had a game plan. You could see the players working all out to execute the game plan. Over and over they ran the plays as called out by Fosdick. In the first quarter they worked. Gresser hit a three point shot to open the scoring and Saline raced out to an 11-4 first quarter lead.
In the second quarter, Coach Fosdick called out plays but Chelsea made some defensive adjustments and then the plays weren’t working. Fosdick called a time out and you could see the players going all out to try to execute the plays, but now the plays weren’t working. The Hornets tried to get the ball inside to Pellerin and Turner but instead of points being scored under the basket, Saline turned the ball over six times. And for the first time all season, the Hornets were shut out in a quarter. Chelsea outscored Saline 15-0 in the second quarter and took a 19-11 lead into the locker room at the half. The Hornets would never again hold a lead in the game.
It is often said that the true measure of a man is what he does when no one is looking. Another is being able to stand in front of a group and accept responsibility when something goes terribly wrong. During the Civil War’s second battle at Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered his general George Pickett to conduct a counter attack against the Union Army. It is now referred to as “Pickett’s Charge”. Lee was advised that the move had little chance of success. History had said that General Lee was “in a mood and hankered for a fight”, so the order was carried out. It resulted in the death of thousands of confederate troops. General Pickett’s entire division of troops was killed. Seeing what had happened, Lee went onto the battlefield and said to his men, “It is all my fault. It is all my fault.” General George Pickett never forgave him.
Following the loss, Head Coach Jacob Fosdick stepped in front of his team and said “tonight was all my fault. You deserved better coaching than this on your night. Tonight was an embarrassment and it was all my fault.” But unlike the second battle of Gettysburg, the Hornet basketball team still believes in their team, their coach and their season. They will take some time to reflect on what went wrong and then turn their attention to a plan to defeat arch rival Ann Arbor Huron.
There is nothing remarkable to report on in the second half of the Chelsea game but the 2016-17 hoops season has been wonderful. The four mainstay starting seniors were asked prior to the game their thoughts about playing their last game at SHS.
Co-captain Jacob Finkbeiner said “it has been a fun run. I have made lifelong friends and leave with a lot good memories”. Pellerin added “it is hard to believe it is over. I have seen so many other players play their last game; it is hard to believe that tonight is mine. I never thought this day would come.” Zylstra said “I take so much pride in wearing the Hornet jersey. It has been an honor to play for Saline. I enjoy the atmosphere of the games, playing with my friends and in front of my friends.” Foley, like Zylstra said he was honored to play for Saline. “It has been an honor for me to play for Saline. It is sad to see it end.”
But like Dr. Suess said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
Coach Fosdick said Foley, along with teammate Jake Finkbeiner have been the heart and soul of the team. They are the spark plugs on offense and the Ministers of Defense this season. They are truly the Dynamic Duo who led through their example of hard work and effort.
Finkbeiner, Foley, Pellerin and Zylstra, along with the other five seniors, are quiet, thoughtful and intelligent. They are respectful of others and respectful of the game. Coach Fosdick said “I love these seniors. When the program was going through tough times, these players stuck with me and worked to bring life back to SHS basketball. I will be forever grateful that they believed in me. They are all great athletes and could have played any sport they wanted. They stuck with me and I will never forget that.”
Through their grit, determination and sweat, we have all been able to enjoy a tremendous season of high school basketball. While the district playoffs await, by any measuring stick you want to use, this season has been a success. It has built upon the success of last season.
The team finished the season 14-6, 6-4 in the SEC Red Division. But success doesn’t have to end with the graduation of this year’s nine seniors. Next year’s team will feature four players with varsity level experience and one player who sat out the season due to injury. Emmett “The Beast” Turner, a contender for the captain designation next year will return. Turner when in beast mode is the guy you want on your team. He is ferocious. He is physical. He isn’t afraid of anyone, and every opposing player knows it. Turner will be joined by sophomore Connor Terech, juniors Adam Heisler, Erik Wenning and Trey Schrzan.
There is also a talented junior varsity team that includes a large number of sophomores who have completed a very successful season. The JV squad has been led by forwards Ryan Koch, Ryan Grill, Ethan Friedrichsen and Brad Wisniewski. Included in this mix is freshman Trevor Arico who has dazzled at times this season.
I also want to highlight the job that Coach Jacob Fosdick, JV Coach Jason Pickett and Freshman Coach LJ Frazier have done this season. Pickett’s JV team finished the season at 16-4, including a 48-45 win over Chelsea. Frazier’s freshmen team finished at 10-10, when some in the pre-season thought his team might not win four games all year. The freshmen squad closed out their season with a 66-57 loss to Chelsea.
And for the final time of this regular season:
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Ryan Foley, Nate Gresser, Mitch Carter, Nick Herrin, Jacob Finkbeiner, Emmett Turner, Preston Filla, Connor Terech, Adam Heisler, Sean Millspaugh, Calder Pellerin, Justin Zylstra, Erik Wenning, Trey Schrzan
2nd Star: Ryan Koch, Brendan Munday, Jamesen Simion, Peter Jacobsen, Nate Learman, Win Walker, Lucas Ebert, Ben Schmidt, Ryan Grill, Trevor Arico, Ethan Friedrichsen, Brad Wisniewski, Matt Aris
3rd Star: Josh Finn, Ben Stack, Tyler Belskus, Will Braham, Jason Head, Patrick Bellinger, Josh VerWoert, Matt Herrin, Hayden Larance, Nathan Hill, Lucas Hill, Jake McCandless, Braeden Potter, Griffin Goetz
PS: TO JAKE FOSDICK
I have watched you for three years. I have seen all of your plays. I am familiar with Boston, Iowa, Houston, Cowboy, the Denver two step and all of your splits and cries for motion. I offer you the following challenge: Next year when the basketball season has fully concluded and you have spare time on your hands, I challenge you to the following match. I will round up as many former SHS basketball players as I can con into playing (including The Man of Steel, the Dynamic Duo, Juice, The Beast, and all the rest. You round up as many former SHS basketball coaches and other staff as you can find, and we meet for a one-game, winner takes all the glory game at SHS gym. We charge an admission and all proceeds will benefit the Foundation for Saline Area Schools. I will recruit your father and uncle to help me coach. Oh, and one more condition, I will find referees who are guaranteed to hang a technical foul on you at some point in the game. I’ve never had one so maybe I will ask that they give me one too. And your dad.