Anytime a team graduates nine seniors the previous year, questions will surface about how this year’s team will fare. When two of those graduating seniors form the “Dynamic Duo,” (Jake Finkbeiner and Ryan Foley) you can’t help but wonder whether the team will bring the same defensive intensity or if the team will be able to get the ball up the court when their opponent applies pressure.
Last season, other SEC coaches voted the Saline team defense an honorary selection in the All-SEC voting. The All-SEC voting recognizes the outstanding players of the SEC each year. Saline Coach Jacob Fosdick smiled at the recognition as his Hornets have led the SEC in total defense for two years in a row. But he too wasn’t sure what to expect with a much younger squad this year. Fosdick was asked before Tuesday’s opening game if his team would bring the same defensive intensity and he smiled and responded, “I don’t know but we will see in a little while.”
In the season opening game Tuesday night at Saline High School, the Hornets answered both questions. The Hornets took a 9–0 lead before the Northville Mustangs coach called a time out. Northville finally got on the score board with 2:20 to go in the first quarter to cut the Hornet lead to 11-3. The Hornets closed out the opening quarter with a commanding 15-3 lead.
Saline was led by Griffin Yaklich, a sophomore student whose family transferred into the Saline district from Illinois. For the Hornet faithful watching the debut game of the 2017-18 season, and who were old enough to have watched basketball in the late 60’s and 70’s, the sophomore guard Yaklich’s style is similar to the late “Pistol Pete” Marovich, star of the LSU tigers, and who later went on to play in the NBA. Marovich could handle the ball, pass to teammates and shoot from anywhere on the court, all with equal precision. Yaklich can too.
The Hornets continued their defensive pressure in the second quarter Emmett “The Beast” Turner scored four second quarter points, grabbed three rebounds and was wearing his beast-mode face as Saline made the Mustangs work on every possession, forcing six first half turnovers.
Yaklich opened the scoring at the 7:08 mark, taking an in-bounds pass, driving the full length of the court, through all five Mustang defenders, to score an uncontested lay-up. Junior forward Connor Terech took a pass under the basket to sink a reverse lay-up to give Saline a 23-7 lead. When the final seconds ticked off the clock to send the teams to the locker room, Saline was up 23-9, had out rebounded the Mustangs 15-8, while forcing six turnovers.
The Hornets went into cruise control for the second half, outscoring Northville 8-7 in both the third and fourth quarters, to take a 39-23 win. Turner’s six third-quarter points led the Hornet scoring, including an incredible 3-point shot from 65-feet away at the buzzer.
The fourth quarter began with an ‘in-your-face’ blocked shot by junior forward Ryan Koch who sent the ball flying into the stands. Yaklich scored back-to-back baskets, the first a lay-up assisted by senior guard Erik Wenning, while Yaklich drove the length of the court to score an easy lay-up. At one point while Yaklich was dribbling the ball, Coach Fosdick yelled, “don’t play with him, get around him.” His player responded by getting around his defender, getting around the next defender and getting a lay-up to close out the Hornet scoring.
Following the game Coach Fosdick had high praise for his team.
“This was a good first game. I have been coaching for seven years, three at the varsity level and you never really know how your team will respond in front of a big crowd, playing a good team like Northville,” Fosdick said. “When you have nine seniors graduate, you worry a little about whether the culture of your program graduates with them. Tonight, everyone can see what the culture of Saline basketball is. Our culture is relentless intensity, hard work and a team that supports each other.”
Saline was led by Yaklich’s 14 points, Turner chipped in 12 and Connor Terech scored 8. The Hornets swing into action Friday night when they host the Plymouth Wildcats. Tip off time is 7 p.m.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Griffin Yaklich (14 points, 2 rebounds & 2 assists)
2nd Star: Emmett “The Beast” Turner (12 points, 11 rebounds)
3rd Star: Connor “The Junior Beast” Terech (8 points, 11 rebounds, I blocked shot)
JV Squad loses opener to Northville, 33-30
The junior varsity squad kicked off their 2017-18 season Tuesday night by dropping a 33-30 decision to the visiting Northville Mustangs. The Hornets made a lot of mistakes in their season opener, committing 11 first half turnovers. Sophomore guard Josh Finn picked up three personal fouls in the first seven minutes of the game, and went to the bench for the remainder of the half. The Mustangs raced out to an 11-3 first quarter lead, scoring 8 of their 11 points off of Hornet turnovers.
Saline got things going in the second quarter with sophomore guard Tyler Belskus hitting a three pointer in the first thirty seconds. The Hornets were able to force the Mustangs into committing seven second quarter turnovers, while sophomore forward Jason Head grabbed four rebounds as the Hornets outscored Northville 15-7 in the second quarter, heading into the locker room trailing 18-15.
Saline held brief lead in the third quarter, being up 22-21 at the 3:31 mark, but the Mustangs scored four points off of turnovers to lead 27-22 at the end of the third quarter. The final quarter was a tight defensive battle between the teams. Finn nailed a three pointer with 2:20 left in the game to cut the lead to 33-30 but the Hornets were not able to make a dent in the three point lead. Sophomore forward Tyler Belskus led the Hornets grabbing 12 rebounds in the game.
Saline JV Head Coach Jason Pickett saw both good things and things the team will need to work on. “In a first game, to hold a team as good as Northville to 33 points is a very good team effort. We will work on our offense and will get better. We got good looks at the basket and will work on making more of those opportunities.” The JV squad will get back into action on Friday hosting the Plymouth Wildcats. Game time is 5:30pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1ST Star: Josh Finn (9 points, 1 rebounds, 2 assists)
2nd Star: Jason Head (4 points, 4 rebounds)
3rd Star: Tyler Belskus (3 points, 12 rebuonds)
Freshman Hornets Down Mustangs, 46-41
The Saline Hornet freshman squad downed the Northville Mustangs 46-41 Tuesday night at Saline High School. First year head coach Brian Whitley praised his squad following the opening game win. “I loved the effort by the team. We played a very good team and challenged them from the beginning,” Whitley said. “We had great energy and intensity. Our squad has great depth as we played everyone in the first half.” The freshman squad will square off against the Plymouth Wildcats on Friday afternoon at Saline High School. Tip off time is 4pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1ST Star: Bryce Wizner (15 points)
2nd Star: Brayden Stavros (12 points)
3rd Star: John Barnett (6 points)