Saline’s varsity girls basketball opened 2020 by defeating Traverse City West, 65-23, to improve to 7-0 for the regular season.
Saline is just one of eight teams in the state to start with at least seven consecutive victories.
Ella Stemmer led Saline with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Sophie Canen scored 12 points and had three rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Liz Sekerak scored 11 points and ha four points, six steals and three assists.
It was Sekerak who jumpstarted the Hornets. She scored three of Saline’s first four baskets as the Hornets put up a remarkable 28 points in the first quarter. The hot start helped Sekerak net a season-high 11 points. Sekerak, who has contributed with tough defense against other teams’ top players and with a lot of assists and steals, was glad to help offensively.
“I’ve been having a rough season, so I was excited for a new year and new start to play the way I want to,” Sekerak said. “Defense is my favorite part of the game but scoring points, you feel more rewarded, like you’re helping the team.”
Coach Leigh Ann Roehm was pleased with Sekerak’s play before Saturday’s contest, but she was happy to see her rewarded with points.
“I can’t say enough about Liz. There’s something magical about a senior leader. What’s phenomenal about her is that early in the season she knew her role was defense -- we always stick her on the other team’s best player. And she really wanted to do a job moving the ball and getting assists for us. She filled that role,” Roehm said. “Building up to this year, she knew she had to up her game heading into the gauntlet of our upcoming conference schedule. She’s the kind of kid who wants to win and knows what she needs to contribute at the right time.”
Saline led 8-4 after Sekerak’s hot start. Stemmer scored three baskets and Sekerak added another as Saline during a 12-point run that gave Saline an 18-4 lead. Reggie Duerst’s three-pointer was a highlight as the Hornets cruised to a 28-9 lead after the first quarter.
The Hornet offense was muted in the second quarter - but the defense was stout. Saline gave up just three points in the second quarter.
Sophomore Sophie Canen hit a three-pointer to open the scoring. Emily Wilcynski (two points, two rebounds) and Bentley also scored with strong drives to the hoop as Saline took a 39-12 lead into the dressing room.
The Hornets ramped up the offense in the third quarter. After three points from Traverse City West, Ella Stemmer made a layup while getting fouled and then sunk her free throw to get those points back. A moment later she grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back to make it 44-16. She scored Saline’s next two baskets, including another on a putback, to give Saline a 50-18 lead.
Games like this have become the norm for the star junior.
“She just consistent. This year she seems so much calmer. She has a peace and confidence about her. The game is just coming to her and slowing down for her. She just takes the right shots when she needs them and the team needs them and she’s shooting the ball great,” Roehm said.
The Hornets got baskets from Natalie Sweetland (four points, three rebounds), Sekerak and Canen en route to a 56-21 lead after three quarters.
Saline outscored their opponents 9-2 in the fourth quarter, with Canen capping a strong night with a three-pointer and another field goal. It was a strong outing for a sophomore who missed most of the early season after suffering an ankle injury.
“She blew her ankle out. It was a devastating loss to us early but we’re very excited to have her back,” Roehm said. “Sophie is talented. She’s a kid that lives in the gym and is constantly putting work in, so what you’re going to see from her is constant improvement.”
The level of competition is about to rise. Saline visits Dexter Friday night before opening the SEC Red season with games at Dexter and Pioneer.
“Four of the six teams in the SEC Red are ranked in the top 25. It’s tough,” Roehm said. “We’re excited about it. We are not backing down. We’re not scored. You play this game to compete.”
The Saline Post 3 Stars
Ella Stemmer - She scored a game-high 19 and also had 10 rebounds. With Bentley in foul trouble, Stemmer did more heavy lifting under the basket, showing again she can play in virtually any role.
Liz Sekerak - The senior scored 11 points and had six steals. She’s been a defensive ace all season, and now she’s adding more to her offense, attacking the rim with confidence.
Sophie Canen - The sophomore begins her second varsity season showing more confidence in her outside shooting and strength in the paint.
Order photos below.