Calder Pellerin’s late three-pointer stood up as the difference as Saline defeated Pioneer, 50-47, in a fierce battle at Saline High School.
Saline improved to 11-3 overall and 5-1 in the SEC Red as the Hornets won their third straight victory over Pioneer. Saline improved to 11-3 overall and 5-1 in the SEC Red. The Hornets won a game that featured a slam dunk, two raucous student sections and heated exchanges between the head coaches.
Saline coach Jake Fosdick said his team relished the big-game atmosphere.
“If you're a high schooler and you're competitive, why don't you want to play in a gym like this? We got three in a row in Ann Arbor. We're going to go into every gym and acting like it's Buzz City (Saline’s nickname for its own gym). We embrace it. We love the noise,” Fosdick said.
It seems every time Saline beats an SEC Red rival, a new hero steps to the fore. Pellerin scored 24-points and grabbed seven rebounds. He shot 4-for-6 from three-point range, had three put-backs and he was four-for-four from the stripe. His first three-pointer of the fourth quarter came after the Pioneers built a four-point lead on a slam dunk by Noah Osebor. His second gave Saline a 49-47 lead in the final minute of play.
Fosdick was impressed with Pellerin’s play on both ends of the ball.
“Contesting shots on the perimeter, flying around. We've been waiting for him to have a breakout game,” Fosdick said, before recalling the game-winning three-pointer. “That was a monster three right there. There's no more deserving kid than him. He's put in a ton of work. The guts to take it. He has that.”
After losing the opening tip-off, Saline put Pioneer on its heels. The Hornets got the ball back and Pellerin put back his own-rebound to open the scoring. The Hornets got a stop and then Jake Finkbeiner (7 points) made a layup. Saline went up 7-0 when Pellerin hit a three-pointer.
Deric Murray (11 points) got Pioneer on the board. Emmett Turner (7 points) re-established Saline’s seven-point lead with a couple of free throws to make it 9-2 with 3:21 to play in the quarter.
Pioneer quickly wiped out Saline’s lead. Will Kirk hit a three. Murray stole a ball and scored. Kirk followed with another three to make it 10-9 Pioneer with 1:47 to play.
Saline regained the lead before the end of the quarter when Ryan Foley (five points) drove through the lane and scored.
Pioneer’s Drew Lowder (13 points) opened the second quarter by hitting a three-pointer. Pellerin answered with a three-pointer of his own to put Saline in front. Saline got a stop and then Pellerin put back a rebound for a 16-13 lead. Jordan Currie (4 points) replied for Pioneer. Then Murray made a free throw and, after a steal, a layup. Pioneer was back in front, 18-16.
Justin Zylstra (7 points) scored on a great drive from the corner to tie the game. Pioneer went back up on a three-pointer from Lowder and then a basket from Austin Young. Pioneer led 23-18 with 1:10 to play in the half.
Emmett Turner bulled his way to the hoop for two after taking a pass from Finkbeiner. Then Finkbeiner scored on his own drive to the net, and then scored after drawing the foul. The game was tied at 23.
Pioneer pressed to go up before the half, but Nate Gresser came off the bench and foiled the attack. Instead, Saline got a chance at a buzzer-beater, but Finkbeiner’s 24-footer on the run bounced off the rim.
The teams were tied at 23 at halftime.
The second half began much like the first, with Saline jumping to an early lead and Pioneer bouncing back.
Pellerin opened scoring by putting back a rebound. Pellerin made another basket.
Then Turner brought the Saline fans to their feet, charging to the net, making the basket and drawing the foul. Saline led 30-23 less than three minutes into the quarter. But again, the Pioneers rebounded. Noah Osebor (4 points) started an eight-point run. Murray had back-to-back baskets and Young also scored. Pioneer led 31-30.
Pellerin drew a foul and went 2-for-2 to put Saline back in front. Pioneer’s Jacob Williams hit a three-pointer and Currie scored to give Pioneer a 36-32 lead. With 12 seconds left in the third, Pellerin drew another foul and went 2-of-2 from the line. The Hornets were down 36-34 going into the fourth.
That’s when a great game shifted into instant-classic territory.
Osebore opened the fourth quarter with a slam dunk, sending the Pioneer fans into a frenzy. But on the way back up the court, he banged into Turner and send the big man sprawling to the floor with a thud. Officials called a foul on Osebore, which incensed Pioneer coach Rex Stanczak. Fosdick chided Stanczak and walked toward the Pioneer bench, arms spread out in a challenging manner.
Gresser quickly walked out to near the scorer’s table and turned his coach around. Fosdick walked back to the Saline bench and then summoned the Saline fans and players to get cheer. They did so. Wildly.
“I was brought into this program to stick up for it and not back down. I'm not going to back down from anything,” Fosdick said. “After a nice dunk Osebore ran into Emmett. They called just a foul. He was upset that it was a foul at all and I thought it was flagrant and should have been a technical foul. He said some words to me and I said some words to him. It's just two fiery coaches trying to pump up their teams.”
Turner missed his free throws. But the fired up Hornets kept battling. Pellerin hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 38-37. Murray and Zylstra exchanged free throws. Then Murray went 1-for-2 from the line to make it 41-39. Zylstra put Saline up 42-41 with a three-pointer with 3:53 to play. Finkbeiner followed with a basket and Saline led 44-41. Pioneer tied it at 44 with points from the stripe.
In another crazy sequence, it looked like Saline earned three-points the hardway. Murray stole a ball off Foley and, under intense pressure by Foley, missed the basket. Pioneer rebounded the ball but missed the put back. Saline got the ball back. Foley carried it up the floor and passed it in the corner to Zylstra, who hit a three-pointer. But while the Saline section cheered, an official ran up the floor waving his arms. He called off the basket, citing Foley for traveling.
It looked like the game might spin away from Saline when Lowder hit a three-pointer with 1:40 to play, giving Pioneer a 47-44 lead. But Foley, who was 0-for-5 from the free throw line up until this point, made went 2-for-2 to get Saline one with 1:23 to play. Turner fouled Williams for his fifth of the game. Williams missed his free throw and Saline moved up the floor and set up. Zylstra ran in from the corner but he was blocked. Sean Millspaugh grabbed the loose ball under the net and passed it out to Pellerin in the far corner. Wide-open, Pellerin made no mistake. His three made it 49-47.
“I just caught it. I shot it like I normally do. It felt great off the hands. It went in,” Pellerin said.
Pioneer got the ball back and took three cracks at the Saline basket. The Pioneers got the first two offensive rebounds. But Finkbeiner won the scramble for the loose ball on the third rebound. From the floor, he called timeout with 15 seconds left.
“Huge play. That's Finkbeiner's legacy and this team's legacy. We outwork you. When push comes to shove and we need to get on top of a loose ball, we do it,” Fosdick said. “I was on Fink all week in practice for some discipline and turnovers. He proved tonight that he's a coachable kid and tough kid. I just love him.”
The Pioneers fouled Foley with 13.5 seconds left. He made one-of-two shots to make it 50-47 and force the Pioneers to hit a three pointer to tie the game. Lowder’s three pointer hit the rim with 4 seconds to play.
A second off-balance free throw at the buzzer hit the rim and bounced out. Saline celebrated their win.
It was a huge, emotional win against an SEC Rival. But Fosdick said such wins are expected of his team.
“It's expected now. This is our third win in a row against Pioneer. I think we have a better basketball program than Pioneer right now. And that's what we're expected to do,” Fosdick said. “(Saline Area Schools Superintendent) Scot Graden told me excellence is expected at Saline in everything. So our goal has been to get Saline's basketball program up to Saline's par. We're trying to prove the SEC runs through Saline in basketball.”
Saline is 5-1 in the SEC Red, tied for first.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Calder Pellerin – Pellerin had his best game of the season. He was strong under the basket for the second consecutive Friday. But this week, he was also strong from three-point range. Pellerin was also perfect from the free throw line.
- Emmett Turner – Scored seven points and fouled out but hj was tough as nails under the basket and probably not much fun to play against.
- Jake Finkbeiner – Could have went with any of the starters, but Finkbeiner gets the nod because of the big possession win in the final minute.