The Saline varsity boys basketball team dropped a 61-54 decision to the Ann Arbor Huron River Rats Friday night in the annual pink-out game to support the fight against breast and other cancers under the dome at Huron High School. The loss dropped the Hornets’ record to 14 - 5 on the year, 7 - 4 in the SEC Red Division. In a quirk of random scheduling, after Saline completes their regular season with senior night on Tuesday hosting the Chelsea Bulldogs, they will begin district play by traveling again to the dome at Huron High School to battle the River Rats.
What makes this finale between these teams so interesting are the coaches. Saline Coach Jacob Fosdick and Huron Coach Jay Shunnar have played with and against each other for years. They are friends on and off the court. Both are new to head coaching at the varsity level and both have been subjected to being slapped down by game officials. They have had to accept that antics by experienced coaches are tolerated by game officials while the same antics used by new head coaches are considered to be overly demonstrative and subject to technical fouls. In game after game seemingly different standards are applied towards new head coaches than standards that experienced head coaches are afforded. Their teams get punished unfairly. As Friday night’s game ended a disappointed Saline fan said to me as he left the gym, “I don’t mind the team losing to another team but I can’t stand when we lose to referees. You write that. I am sick of that.” Good sir, it is written.
None of the members of this year’s team, and probably most of their parents, weren’t born when the iconic Swedish group ABBA sang “Waterloo”, their first chart-topping song in 1974. In the song, there is a line that goes “I feel like I win when I lose.” That described the outcome of Friday night’s game. Anyone who has followed any sport, but especially basketball, understands that it is next to impossible to beat the same team three times in a season.
With Ann Arbor Skyline clinching the SEC Red Division crown a week ago, the Hornets’ focus changed to the districts, high school’s version of March Madness. Saline can claim a competitive advantage despite the loss. Saline senior guard Ryan Foley and junior forward Emmett Turner got into foul trouble early and had to spend most of the second quarter on the bench. This gave Huron the break they needed to outscore the Hornets 23-10 in the second quarter, overcoming a ten-point first quarter deficit. Saline opened the game with a 7-0 run, forcing Huron to take a time out. The Hornets were led by senior forward Calder Pellerin’s nine first quarter points.
With Turner and Foley on the bench the River Rats forced Saline into six 2nd quarter turnovers that allowed Huron to put together two scoring runs that erased the Hornets’ early lead. The half ended with the River Rats forcing a mid-court turnover that was converted into two points with less than a second on the clock. Still with all the adversity from a juggled line-up, Saline went into the half down by only three, 34 - 31.
With Turner and Foley back in the line-up, Saline got the ball inside to Turner and Pellerin with Foley picking up assists. Senior guard Jacob Finkbeiner when combined with Foley, are a dynamic duo with amazing talent. When working in tandem, they apply tenacious defensive pressure on opposing teams or efficiently break through full-court pressure. While Saline committed six turnovers in the 2nd quarter, with Foley and Finkbeiner in the game together, the Hornets had just one turnover in the 3rd quarter. At one point in the third quarter, the intensity that Foley brings to every game was on display for all to see. While chasing down a loose ball at mid-court, in a last-ditch effort to get possession of the ball, Foley charged towards the sideline at full speed while jumping over the scorer’s table and sent sprawling on his landing. Turner ran past the officials to help his teammate up which set up the wild fourth quarter finish.
Down 47 – 41, Saline opened the final quarter with a 7 – 0 run to take the lead 48-47 with 4:29 left. As the River Rats intensified their defensive pressure, and as the body contact increased and the play became physical, Huron fought their way to a 53-48 lead with 2:43 left. Saline called a time out to regroup. And as former Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne used to say, “I never lost a game in my life. I just ran out of time.” And that’s what happened Friday night. The clock ran out on Saline. It wasn’t until three seconds remained on the clock did Saline finally concede defeat by not pressuring the ball.
“I thought we got off to a really great start,” Saline Head Coach Jacob Fosdick said after the game. “We came out and played hard. Then Foley and Turner got into foul trouble and when we substituted it took away our momentum a bit. Huron is a good team but we know that we can absolutely come in here and compete. I think everyone contributed and never quit. Juice (senior forward Justin Zylstra) hit a huge three for us in the second quarter and Terech (sophomore forward Connor Terech) came off the bench and scored huge baskets for us.”
Looking forward, Fosdick said, “We will play a very good Chelsea team on senior night. We won’t have a lot of time to prepare but Chelsea plays a style that is like Huron’s so that will help.” Fosdick added, “We will come back to the dome in a little over a week to take on Huron again. We won’t be intimidated. We won’t be out-worked. And we will be ready.”
And you can bet Saline’s fiery coach and his team will have their game faces on and will be ready to go. They host the Chelsea Bulldogs on senior night, Tuesday, 2-28-17. Tip off time is 7pm. District playoffs begin on Monday, March 6. Saline will face Huron High School at AA Huron. Game time is 5:30pm. And in district play, you play until you lose. And the one-and-done play is what makes playoffs so exciting.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Calder Pellerin (20 points, 7 rebounds, 1 blocked shot)
2nd Star: Emmett Turner (12 points, 8 rebounds)
3rd Star: Jacob Finkbeiner (9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) (This kid is a machine on the floor)
Honorable Mentions: Juice Zylstra (7 points), Connor Terech (4 points), Ryan Foley (5 assists)
SALINE JV WINS AT HURON; UPPS RECORD TO 15 – 4
The Saline JV squad traveled to Ann Arbor Huron Friday night and emerged victorious. At times the basketball game looked more like a tryout for the WWE or Wrestle Mania rather than a JV basketball game. Sophomore forward Ethan Friedrichsen, in possession of the ball, was knocked off his position by a River Rat player. As he attempted to regain his position, with his arms up to protect himself and his space, he bumped into his opponent. Though the initial contact was ignored by the referees, Friedrichsen was called for a foul. What was said to Saline JV Head Coach Jason Pickett was that what Friedrichsen did “just wasn’t right”. So goes life in the junior varsity.
Despite the rough nature of how the game was played, Saline held off a late rally by the River Rats to get a 42 – 40 victory. The Hornets managed to outscore Huron by a point in the second and fourth quarters to win. Saline was tied 9-9 at the end of the first quarter and went to the locker room up 17-16 at the half. The first half play was spearheaded by Friedrichsen and sophomore forwards Ryan Grill and Brad Wisniewski. The trio, along with sophomore Ryan Koch scored all eight of Saline’s second quarter points.
Both teams played tough defense which made scoring tough. The low scoring third quarter (7 – 7) was a direct result of the defensive play. Freshman guard Trevor Arico was a standout in his defensive play. Arico is a player who has gotten better and better as the season has progressed. Coach Pickett said of Arico, “he plays a lot like Peter Jacobsen did last year. He knows when he makes a mistake so you don’t really have to talk with him about it. The great thing, like Jacobsen, Trevor doesn’t make the same mistake twice.”
Saline missed some open shots which contributed to the score remaining close. And Huron’s rebounding kept them in the game. Saline held a 42-33 lead with 1:29 left in the game. The River Rats pressed, fought and pushed their way back into the game. Huron hit a three-point shot to get to within 42-40 but the final seconds ticked off the clock securing Saline’s win.
Following the victory, Pickett was proud of his team. “We talked about coming out and playing hard and I think we did that. We call it playing with fire. And no matter who is in the game playing, they will play with fire.” When asked about the physical nature of the game Pickett responded, “we can’t control what the officials are going to do. We need to control what we can, and that includes adjusting our play to try and match how the game is being called. I admire the kids for not losing their composure tonight. Several kids were knocked down and bloodied. They just got up and kept playing.”
The JV squad will close out their season Tuesday night when they will host the Chelsea Bulldogs. Game time is 5:30pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Ethan Friedrichsen (11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 blocked shot)
2nd Star: Ryan Koch (8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and quiet, solid leadership on the court)
3rd Star: Brenden Munday (5points, 1 rebound) & Jamesen Simion (5 points, 2 rebounds) & Ryan Grill (5 points, 2 rebounds)
FRESHMEN DOWN AA HURON; EXTEND WINING STREAK
The Saline freshmen traveled to AA Huron in a pink out game in support of the American Cancer Association Friday afternoon. Saline walked away with a 49-44 win, extending their win streak. The Hornets were led by freshmen guards Josh Finn and Ben Stack, scoring 17 and 15 points respectively. The freshmen squad will close out their season Tuesday night when they will host the Chelsea Bulldogs. Tip off time is 5:30pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Josh Finn (17 points)
2nd Star: Ben Stack (15 points)
3rd Star: Nathan Hill (6 points)