Winston Churchill once described Russia as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma". Watching high school student athletes compete in their respective sports can be a riddle, a mystery and an enigma. Sometimes fun to watch, other times frustrating. But what the boys freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams, as well as the girls junior varisty and varsity hoops teams did Tuesday night on their home court was, well, awe inspiring.
Just four days before, Saline High School junior student athlete Ryan Estrada, a football offensive linemen and wrestler, was found unresponsive prior to wrestling practice in the locker room. Estrada pass away the following day at The University of Michigan Health Center. Students had a snow day on Monday and returned to school Tuesday with trauma counselors present to help students deal with the tragic loss of their friend. The boys and girls hoops team had to swing into action against arch rival Ann Arbor Pioneer in the opening of SEC play. The boys and girls teams played with guts. And emotion. When the evening was over, the Hornets stung the Pioneers with five losses.
For the second straight game, the varsity hoops team held their opponent to under thirty points, defeating Pioneer 45-29, holding the Ann Arbor team to just 12 points in the second half. The Hornets trailed 11-10 at the end of the first quarter as they struggled to make shots from the field and free throw line. Both teams seemed to struggle to make shots but senior guard Jacob Finkbeiner made two end to end drive to the basket to get the Hornets going. Junior forward Emmett Turner fought through the tough Pioneer defense to score from under the basket. Saline went into the locker room leading 18-17.
Whatever Head Coach Jacob Fosdick said to his team in the locker room at the half worked, as his Hornets came out and took charge in the third quarter, outscoring Ann Arbor, 15-7, taking a commanding 32-24 lead into the final quarter. The two big men for the Hornets, Turner and senior forward Calder Pellerin pushed the ball inside to score nine points between them, with Justin "Juice" Zylstra adding two three point shots.
The fourth quarter was all Saline. With a large crowd of students cheering them on, the Hornets ' defense totally smothered the Pioneers, with Pioneer scoring their first points of the quarter with just 1:27 left in the game. By then it was way too little, and way too late. Finkbeiner and Juice led the fourth quarter scoring, with Finkbeiner netting 7 points, for a game high 17, and Zylstra hitting two more three pointers, finishing with 11 points. The win ups Saline's record to 2-1 on the season, 1-0 in the SEC.
The real story in this game was the team defense, led by senior guard Ryan Foley and Pellerin. Both played defense with an intensity that was contagious. No matter who Coach Jacob Fosdick sent into the game, the team defense never faltered. The intensity of playing defense never waned. The desire to win was strong. And in the end, both the Pioneer coach and his players knew that they were in a Hornet's nest and all they wanted to do was get out.
“We are not a team that will win by scoring 80 or 90 points. We will win games by playing tough defense, and every player on this team knows that,” Fosdick said.
Fosdick heralded the play of his team, the tenacity of their effort.
"Even though they didn't score a lot of points tonight, both Foley and Pellerin had huge games." Fosdick said "Pellerin is known around the league and teams pay a lot of attention to him. The creates space for the other players, and they are making teams pay for that."
The Hornets get back into action Friday night hosting the Monroe Trojans. Tip off is 7pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Jacob Finkbiner (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists)
2nd Star: Justin Zlystra (11 points - his three point shooting was a thing of beauty)
3rd Star: Emmett Turner (9 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots)
Honorable mention: SHS student section ( what a loud group- your signs were great!)
HORNET JV SQUAD DESTROYS ANN ARBOR PIONEER 66-49
The Pioneers scored the first four points of the game but with 5:03 left in the first quarter, sophomore guard Peter Jacobsen hit a three point shot to put the Hornetsin front 5-4, a lead they never gave up. Sophomore center Brad Wisniewski blocked a shot then fed a pass to sophomore Ethan Friedrichsen for an easy lay-up that put the Hornets up 14-9 at the end of one.
On last year's JV squad, freshman Connor Terech (who made the varsity team this year) was dubbed "The Beast" by this reporter for his rebounding, tough physical play and scoring touch around the basket. Coach Jason Pickett has a new beast on his squad this year in Wisniewski. The Beast was absolutely unstoppable in this game, scoring 17 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, blocking 4 shots and dishing off 4 assists. He was a hge physical presence in the game and Pioneer had no clue on how to defend him.
The JV squad blew the game wide open in the seciond quarter led by Wisniewski and and freshman Trevor Arico. Arico hit a short jumper to put the Hornets up 20-10. Sophmore Ryan Koch drove the length of the court off a block by the Beast to give the Hornets a 28-11 lead. Saline went to the locket room with a comfortable 37-20 lead.
Head Coach Jason Pickett took his foot off the gas in the second half substituting freely to get all his players some valuable playing time. These players made the most of thier palying time. Sophomore forward Nate Learman grabbed a rebound in the fourth quarter, fed an outlet pass that led to another easy Hornet basket.
"It's always good to beat a rival like Ann Arbor Pioneer,” Head Coach Pickett said following the game. "We are trying to instill in it the team that when we go into games like this, we expect to win. And they are believing that they can beat anyone. We will enjoy this win until tomorrow and then it is back to practice and back to trying to improve. With every practice, every game, every shot and rebound, we look for how we can improve."
The win raised the JV Hornets' record to 2-1 on the season, 1-0 in SEC play. They will host the Monroe Trojans on Friday. Tip off is 5:30pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Brad Wisniewski (17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 4 assists)
2nd Star: Trevor Arico (10 points, 2 rebounds)
3rd Star: Ethan Friedrichsen (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocked shots)
FRESHMEN HOOPS TEAM BEATS AA PIONEER 33-31
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Ben Stack (13 points)
2nd Star: Josh Finn (11 points)
3rd Star: Hayden Larance (4 points)