Seeing is believing. So is winning.
A young Saline varsity girls basketball team came back from seven points down to defeat Belleville 51-43 in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Saline High School gym Friday evening.
“We talked before the game about believing in us. The first step to believing is getting that first win under your belt,” Saline coach Lee Ann Roehm said. “To do it against a talented Belleville team especially means a lot.”
Junior Nicole Sweetland scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Hornet attack. Freshman Ella Stemmer, who scored 12 points, went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Senior Brooke Bauer, who had several blocks and many rebounds on both ends of the floor scored 10 points – five of which came in the fourth quarter.
Also scoring for the Hornets were Asia Lindsey, five points, Kelsey Alexander, four points, and Erin Reilly, three points.
Saline evened its record at 1-1.
Coach Roehm expressed pride in her team after the game.
“Belleville is a talented team and I give them credit because they played hard until the end. It was a physical game,” Roehm said. “I am so proud of the effort this team game. I feel like everyone who stepped on the floor and the people on the bench all contributed so much. We had a sixth person on the floor the whole game, and that was our bench, cheering and standing. I'm just proud of our team for going out and believing we could do this.”
Roehm said the big difference between the opening night loss and the victory over Belleville was shooting.
“Our defense was solid. Our press was effective. The difference today was we knocked some shots down,” Roehm said.
The first half resembled the Chelsea game. A strong defensive effort kept the Hornets close. The Hornets missed their fair share of shots, but they cut down on turnovers that led to some of Chelsea’s easy baskets. Saline and Belleville were tied at 15 at the half, though it felt like the Hornets were just trying to hang close.
Midway through the third quarter, Belleville took advantage of a couple turnovers and went on a six-point run to take a 30-23 lead. It seemed like the game might get away from the Hornets.
Stemmer came through with a three-pointer that helped the Hornets back into the game. Bauer followed by sinking two shots from the stripe. The Tigers made a free throw and led 31-28 to start the fourth.
The Tigers opened the scoring in the fourth to take a five-point lead. Then the Hornets took over.
Sweetland hit a three pointer. Bauer followed by making one of two free throws to get Saline to within a point. Saline got the ball back and went on the attack. Stemmer grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled as she went up. She made both shots and Saline took the lead for good. Bauer stole the ball on Belleville’s next trip up the floor. Stemmer was fouled again. She hit both shots to make it 36-33. The Hornets kept working the press and Erin Reilly forced a turnover. Saline got the ball back and put up a shot. Bauer and a Tiger battled for the rebound.
The ball bounced loose and Sweetland got their first. She put it right back up for two. Saline led 38-33.
Belleville didn’t go away quietly, cutting the lead to a point. But the young Hornets weren’t phased.
Bauer fought for another offensive rebound it put it back up to give Saline a 40-37 lead. Reilly went 1-for-2 from the free throw line to make it 41-37. Janessa Franklin made a couple of free throws to cut Saline’s lead to two.
Sweetland responded with another three-point bomb to make it 44-39 with 2:30 to play.
The Hornets got the ball back and Stemmer passed to Sweetland, who lost her guard and then went to the basket for two points. She made it a three-point play with a free throw. Saline led 47-39.
Roehm coached Sweetland in eighth grade and again last year at junior varsity. She’s seen Sweetland take over a game before and knows what it can do for a team.
“"This is not a surprise to me. I knew she was going to have her debut and break through at some point,” Roehm said. “The first game against Chelsea, when we played great defense and couldn't put the ball in the basket, it was hard to get momentum. Nicole, especially, when the ball goes into the net, our team responds emotionally and we begin to believe. That's the key to a young team -- believing you can do it. She gave us the confidence and belief in ourselves.”
Franklin made another three-pointer to give Bellville a little late hope. But at the other end of the floor, Bauer and Stemmer each went two-for-two from the free throw line to ice the game.
Roehm had high praise for both Bauer and Stemmer.
“Ella is going to learn fast. She handled the point against a tough press really effectively. She knocked seven out of eight free throws down the stretch which is the sign of a mature player,” Roehm said. “Brooke is relentless and fiery. She is never going to quit. Her job on the boards was so huge for us, both on the defensive end and offensive end. There's no quit in that kid. She made huge free throws down the stretch and a big bucket in the fourth quarter, as well.”
Early in the contest, there wasn’t much offense. After Belleville took the lead, Lindsey tied it when she stole the ball and then waited for her guard to run past her before putting it up for an easy two. Belleville went ahead 6-2. Stemmer got one point back at the free throw line and then Reilly made a basket to get Saline to within one.
In the second quarter Belleville struck first to take an 8-5 lead.
Alexander drove the lane for two. Bauer tied the game with a free throw.
Sweetland gave Saline its first lead of the game with a three-pointer. The two teams traded points until the half, with Alexander and Stemmer making shots for the Hornets.
The game was tied at 15 at halftime.
Again, Belleville struck first in third quarter. Lindsey got a point back at the stripe. Belleville replied by going 1-for-2 from the line and then putting back the rebound of the second shot for a 20-17 lead.
Bauer replied with a field goal.
After Belleville went up by four, Sweetland hit her second three of the game to get Saline within one.
After a couple of free throws by Lindsey, Belleville looked like they might pull away, but the fiery Hornets took over the game.
Coach Roehm credited the community for supporting the team.
“It meant a lot to the girls to see all those people in the stands and to hear them making noise. So we want to thank the community for their support. Hopefully we see them at more of our games,” Roehm said.
The Saline Post 3 Stars of the Game
- Nicole Sweetland – When Sweetland gets hot, she can take over a game. And it’s not just about her shot either. When she’s hitting her shot, she gets fired up. And when she gets fired up, so do her teammates.
- Ella Stemmer – From start to finish, she might have been the Hornets’ most complete player. Coach Roehm noted that she played point guard for a spell and handled the Belleville press with poise. She hit a huge three-pointer to end the Belleville run in the third and get the Hornets on track. She was also 6-for-6 from the stripe in the fourth.
- Brooke Bauer – Bauer didn’t have the night she wanted to shooting – at least through three quarters. But she more than made up for it with a bunch of defense stops on blocks and defensive rebounds. She also earned several second and third offensive opportunities with offensive rebounds. She scored nine of her 10 points in the second half and was 4-for-5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.