With 6:48 left in the game and Saline holding a slim 46-44 lead, Ryan Foley and Jacob Finkbeiner led a 16-4 Hornet run to end Novi’s comeback attempt.
“I have two senior guards who just refused to lose tonight,” Saline varsity basketball head coach Jacob Fosdick said following the Hornets’ 63-51 win over the Novi Wildcats Thursday night at Saline High School.
Saline won its fifth straight game and improved to 5-1 before the break.
Foley ended the game with 8 points, 9 assists and 3 rebounds. The Wildcats committed 13 turnovers in the game, with over half of them forced by Foley.
“I am not the most talented player on the floor,” Foley said after the game, “but I will not be out-worked. I will not be out-hustled. Defense is my game and I want my teammates to know that if we work together on defense we can play with any team.”
Foley went on to heap praise on his teammates.
“Fink (guard Jacob Finkbeiner, Turner (junior forward Emmett Turner), Juice (senior forward Justin Zylstra) and Pelly (senior forward Calder Pellerin) all make greats cuts to the basket which makes passing to them easy,” Foley said.
Novi came into the game having laid a thirty-point loss on a ranked team and not many gave the Hornets much of a chance. Fosdick said “whoever set the pace for the game would be in a good position to win.” And from the beginning, Saline set the pace.
Juice Zylstra and Pellerin each pumped in two three-point shots to stake the Hornets to a 26-13 first quarter lead. Both Turner and Zylstra got into foul trouble early in the second quarter and headed to the bench. They were replaced by junior guard Erik Wenning and sophomore forward Connor Terech. Both did an outstanding job on defense, while Terech pumped in seven points and five rebounds. Novi outscored Saline 13-10 in the second quarter and went into the locker room trailing 36-26 at the half, much to the delight of a large, enthusiastic home crowd. Sitting directly behind the Saline bench were Saline’s fourth and fifth grade travel basketball teams. The twenty or so players were noise makers throughout the game, being especially loud each time Novi attempted to shoot a free throw.
Good teams always find a way to fight back and the Wildcats began a frantic attack to get back in the game in the second half. Turner picked up his third foul of the game 18 seconds into the third quarter and once again found a seat on the bench. As Novi stepped up their own defensive pressure, the Hornets started to miss shots, or take forced shots. The Wildcats out-rebounded Saline 8-6 in the third quarter, and outscored the Hornets 16-8 and cut Saline’s lead to 44-42 heading into the final quarter.
Good teams find a way to win even when the going gets tough. Teams can find an emotional boost in a variety of ways. Last year the Hornets relied on senior leadership, and a “Man of Steel” Matt Rosati to carry them through pressure moments. This year, Foley and Finkbeiner have proven to be Saline’s “Men of Steel.” And against Novi, the dynamic duo put the proverbial nail in the coffin. Foley, taking passes from Finkbeiner, drove to the basket to score four much needed points. Terech then hit a 25-foot three-pointer to up Saline’s to 51-44. Turner entered the game with a little over five minutes left and became an absolute beast under the boards, grabbing five rebounds and making his physical presence known to all defenders. As the Wildcats tried to trap and apply pressure defensively, Finkbeiner, Foley, Zlystra, Turner and Pellerin took precious seconds off the clock, forcing Novi into fouling. And one after another, the Hornets stepped to the charity stripe and sank the free throws, sinking the high and mighty Wildcats to a stinging 63-51 defeat. The win raises Saline’s record to 5-1 on the year, 3-0 in the SEC. As the Hornets were heading into the locker room after the game, several players walked behind the bench and gave the young hoopsters high fives, much to the squealing delight of the youngsters.
The Hornets are off on a Holiday break. They will return to action on Thursday, 01-04-17 traveling to take on Thurston High School.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Ryan Foley (8 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists & great ball-handling)
1st Star: Jacob Finkbeiner (13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists & great ball-handling)
2nd Star: Calder Pellerin (17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocked shots)
3rd Star: Justin “Juice” Zylstra (11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist)