The only thing missing from the Saline Hornet’s varsity boys basketball clash against the Plymouth Wildcats Friday night at Saline High School was a pep band blaring the 1976 theme to the movie “Rocky,” as the Hornets won a hard-fought slugfest, 45- 43, to up their season record to 2-0.
Bill Conti’s iconic song, “Gonna Fly Now” was nominated for Best Original Song in the 1977 Academy Awards. What most people don’t realize is the song had only twenty-nine words. And those words described the Hornets in their struggle against the Plymouth Wildcats.
“Tryin’ hard now, It’s so hard now, Tryin’ hard now
Gettin’ strong now, Comin’ on now, Getting’ strong now
Gonna fly now, Flyin’ high now, Gonna fly, fly, fly”
And in the end, the Hornets were soaring on the strength of senior forward Emmett “The Beast” Turner. Turner had a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, 2 assists and one massive blocked shot of Wildcats’ 6’7” star forward Anthony Crump. Crump was driving hard to the basket late in the third quarter when Turner met him in mid-air, got his hands on the ball and stuffed it back into Crump’s face.
Another question got answered Friday night about this young Hornet team. From the first in-bounds pass, and for about 90 percent of the game, Saline faced full-court pressure. Though Plymouth pressed, and it was a very physical press, the Wildcats’ press did not produce a single turnover the entire game. The Hornets started the game with high energy.
Junior forward Connor “The Junior Beast” Terech got Saline on the board, assisted by Turner. A minute later Turner grabbed an offensive rebound, converted on a lay-up to pull the Hornets to within a point, 5-4. Plymouth went on a six-point run to open a seven-point lead, two of which came on a rare goal-tending call. The referee explained that Terech’s hand “had touched the net.”
Adam Heisler grabbed an offensive rebound with less than second left to bring Saline to within five, 15-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Like the song, the Hornets were tryin’ hard now, getting’ strong now. And flyin’ high now in the second quarter.
Junior guard Eric “Baywatch” Wenning nailed a 25-foot three-point jumper to get things going a minute into the quarter. (In the summer Wenning works as a life guard and is said to really enjoy sitting atop the guard chair—hence the Baywatch tag.)
A short while later, sophomore guard Griffin Yaklich received a pass in his defensive zone, dribbled through all five Wildcats, to finish with a lay-up to knot things at 15-15.
The remainder of the second quarter was a highlight reel for the Saline Beast Machine. Turner scored eight of his 18 points in the final four minutes of the half. He, along with Terech, became an unstoppable machine.
Wenning played a key role in two ways. His calm, smooth decision-making when in-bounding the ball, being present to help beat the press. He was also playing hard-nosed, in your face defense. With 2:36 left in the half, Wenning calmly stepped to the charity stripe and hit both ends of a one-on-one free throw to up Saline’s lead to 25-20.
Plymouth upped their physical play in the second half, bumping, pushing, pulling and slapping their way through the quarter.
Yaklich made another dazzling drive through the Wildcats to stake Saline to a 29-27 lead, and then ten seconds later picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench with 5:40 left in the third quarter. Turner, Heisler each added two more points while Wenning once again walked calmly to the free throw line with 1:41 left and sank both free throws. Saline was heading into the fourth quarter with a slim 34-32 lead.
And what a wild, and rough, fourth quarter it was. Turner is no stranger to physical play. Being a standout wide receiver for the Hornet football team, he knows a thing or two about physical play. And on two occasions, he absorbed the physical punishment as Crump was assessed two charging fouls. With 1:29 left in the game, off a Wildcat turnover, Terech was driving to the basket for a lay-up when he was fouled by Plymouth. It was a hard foul, sending him to the floor. It was deemed to be an intentional foul. He made one of two free throws. Fifteen seconds later, Terech was fouled again and made another free throw, upping Saline’s lead to 43-39.
Plymouth missed another shot, Turner grabbed the rebound and fed a pass up to junior forward Ryan Koch.
Koch was moving in for a lay-up and he was fouled. Actually, Koch was smoked. Koch got up off the floor, and walked “in a menacing manner” toward the Wildcat player and was assessed a technical foul. In the end, the Hornets knew they were in a slugfest. But, they walked away victorious.
Head Coach Jacob Fosdick had high praise for his team.
“Wow, young teams usually don’t win games like this. For the team to play this well, to play winning basketball and against a team this good, that is incredible,” Fosdick said.
He said the young team is learning from its veterans.
“The seniors on this team demonstrate what it takes to be successful. When the other players see their team captain sacrificing his body for the team, willing to take that kind of physical punishment, it makes everyone want to play that way,” Fosdick said.
Fosdick is happy about the play of his guards. Wenning had a strong night and Peter Jacobsen did a nice job when Yaklich hit the bench in foul trouble.
“I can’t say enough about junior guard Peter Jacobsen. To step in when Yaklich gets in foul trouble, step in and face that kind of full-court pressure, and to handle it so smoothly. Amazing. Just amazing,” Fosdick said. “And how about Wenning? He faced some very tough situations just trying to in-bound the ball, and he handled it all so calmly.”
The Hornets travel to Hartland on Tuesday night. Tip off time is 7pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Emmett “The Beast” Turner (18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 blocked shot)
2nd Star: Eric “Baywatch” Wenning (7 points, 2 rebounds, & great on-court leadership)
3rd Star: Peter Jacobsen (1 point, 2 rebounds, 1 assist & great ball-handing)
JV SQUAD EVENS SEASON RECORD AT 1-1 WITH WIN OVER PLYMOUTH
The Saline Junior Varsity squad evened its season record at 1-1 with a 48-43 win over the Plymouth Wildcats Friday night at home. The Wildcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and the Hornets tied it with 6:34 to go. Saline took the lead 6-3 with 4:47 to go in the opening quarter and never again trailed in the game. The Hornets were red hot shooting three-point shots, converting on around 40 percent, led by sophomore Josh Finn, who converted 6 of 12 three-point shots, to lead all scorers with 22 points.
Head Coach Jason Pickett was very pleased with his team’s performance. “We had trouble with our offense on Tuesday, so we worked on getting good looks at the basket in practice. And you saw that it paid off tonight. The kids are working together, passing the ball and waiting for the good shot. Everyone knows what we are trying to do and they work together within our system. They played very well together tonight.”
The JV squad gets back into action on Tuesday night when they travel to Hartland. Game time is 5:30pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Josh Winn (22 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists)
2nd Star: Nathan Holmberg (5 points, 2 rebounds)
3rd Star: Anthony Ferrari (4 points, 1 rebound)
FRESHMAN LOSE TO PLYMOUTH 38-36, DROP TO 1-1 ON THE SEASON
Saline led for most of the game, only to lose by two points, 38-36, dropping their season record to 1-1. They will travel to Hartland on Tuesday. Tip off time is 4pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Zack Socha (8 points)
2nd Star: Eli Trese (5 points)
3rd Star: Brayden Stavros (4 points)