Since December they’ve crashed into the official scorers, dove head first over the benches and into the stands, rattled bleachers and caused general mayhem at every barn they stormed. Monday night, the curtain closed on the Saline varsity basketball team’s show. Saline lost 62-56 to Huron as the MHSAA district tournament opened at Ann Arbor Huron.
The Hornets’ impossible comeback (down by 12 points with 2:10 to go) became improbable. But with Emmett Turner impersonating a monster truck, leaping over obstacles to attack the net and score seven points in the final 57 seconds, time ran out on the Hornets, who ferociously battled until the final whistle.
Coach Jake Fosdick used one word to describe his team: Relentless.
“That’s what we’ve built here. That’s what those seniors have built here, that no matter what the score, we play the same way. We’re relentless, whether we’re up 10 points or down 10 points or tie game,” Fosdick said. “That’s who we are. That’s why they’re going to be unbelievable business men, unbelievable teachers, coaches or whatever they want to do with their lives. Because they’re relentless. No matter what happens to them in life, they just keep fighting.”
Turner led the Saline attack with 19 points. He was unstoppable before getting into foul trouble in the first quarter. He was indomitable with four fouls to his name in the final moments of the game.
“He showed he’s one of the best players in the conference. The thing with Emmett is that he gets better as the year goes on. Last year he came on at the end, this year he came on at the end. It probably takes a little time coming back from football to get bac in the swing of things,” Fosdick said. “But by Christmas break, he’s one of the best players in the conference.”
Senior Calder Pellerin scored 11 points, including two big three-pointers that gave Saline life in the fourth quarter. Senior Jake Finkbeiner scored eight points. Seniors Ryan Foley and Justin Zylstra each scored six points. Fosdick has never been shy about sharing his appreciation for seniors.
“I just told them I love them. They’re a great group of kids and they set the standard for our program,” Fosdick said. “For now on, Saline basketball will be known for that (relentless play). If you can’t match what these seniors did, we’ll find kids who will.”
Sophomore Connor Terech scored six points and picked up several offensive rebounds.
Lawrence Rowley scored 21 points to lead Huron. He was a major force under the rim all game and dunked on Saline twice. Jack Smith scored 15 points, four of which came on three pointers. Alec Anderson scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
The game started with Finkbeiner hitting a three-pointer. After a couple free throw points, Turner scored with a layup for a 5-2 lead. Huron took the lead when Jack Smith hit a three-pointer while getting fouled and then converted the free throw. Saline went back up, 7-6, when Turner put back a rebound. Smith hit another three to give Huron a 9-7 lead. Finkbeiner got one point back from the stripe but Huron went up 11-8 when Rowley dunked. Turner got Saline to within one when he put back an offensive rebound. Rowley answered for Huron. With 1:54 to play in the quarter, Foley scored with an aggressive drive to the hoop. Saline was down 13-12.
With 1:18 to play in the quarter, Turner and Foley went to the bench with two fouls each. Huron went up 16-12. Turner re-entered the game and made a layup. Saline was down 16-14 after the first quarter.
Turner scored eight points and grabbed several rebounds in the first quarter.
The second quarter began with Alec Anderson making a shot and hitting a free throw for a 19-14 lead. Turner left the game again in foul trouble. Junior Chris Terech and Calder Pellerin handled the work under the basket admirably. Terech made a contested layup to get within three. After a basket by Rowley, Pellerin made back-to-back baskets to get Saline within one at 21-20.
Smith hit a three-pointer to make it a four-point game. Terech replied with a layup and then a put-back to tie the game at 24.
Because of the senior-laden team, Terech hasn’t played as much as Fosdick wanted, but the coach was pleased by the play of his strong sophomore.
“We were talking about Connor and how much he’s improved at our staff meeting last night,” Fosdick said. “They were huge minutes he gave us tonight. Throughout the year you can see how much more comfortable he’s gotten and how much more he understands the position. He’s setting himself up for a heck of a future. I thought we had the best bigs inside in the conference this year. To have him and Turner back inside next year, I don’t see why we won’t have them next year too.”
Rowley sank a couple of free throws and Huron led 26-24 at halftime.
“I thought we executed really well. We came in at halftime down by two with two of our best players not playing much,” Fosdick said.
Fosdick wasn’t at all displeased by the team’s performance, considering Foley and Turner had spent so much time on the bench in foul trouble.
Zylstra gave Saline the lead with a three-point shot to start the second half.
After a Huron basket, Finkbeiner made a lay-up and Turner put back a rebound and Saline led 31-28. It was the last field goal Saline made until the fourth quarter.
Jalen Mosley made a three-pointer to tie the game. Then Smith made a layup to put Huron up by two. Finkbeiner went 2-for-2 from the free throw line to tie the game at 33. But Huron scored the next nine points and led 42-33 by the end of the third quarter.
“I thought we missed some easy ones and they made some tough shots,” Fosdick said.
Saline worked to close the gap in the fourth. Turner made a free throw and Foley made a layup, making it a six-point game. But Huron rattled off a seven-point run to make it 47-36.
Pellerin hit a three-pointer to make it a 10-point game and Turner made a free-throw to make it 49-40.
After a basket by Rowley, Zylstra hit a three-pointer to make it 51-43.
But once again, Huron responded with three straight baskets. They led 57-43 with less than two minutes to play. The game seemed over. But Foley made a couple of free throws. Then the officials called a foul on Avery Lewis when Turner went up for a basket. Officials then also threw a technical foul at him. Pellerin went 1-for-2 on the technical and Turner went 2-for-2.
Then Pellerin hit another three-pointer. It was a two-possession game at 57-51.
The Hornets got another stop and Turner made a free throw to make it 57-52 with 32.6 seconds left.
Lewis Willis made a couple free throws for Huron. The ball was inbounded to Turner who went coast-to-coast for a basket. Saline was within five points again.
Anderson went 1-for-2 from the line for Huron for a five point lead. Turner drove to the net again and was fouled. He went 2-for-2 from the line to make it 60-56 with 13.5 seconds to play. It was as close as the Hornets would get. Lewis made another free throws to make it 61-56 with 12.6 seconds left. Turner came roaring down the floor for another shot. He was knocked down. The ball went to Foley at the top of the key. With several hands in his face, Foley desperately fired off a three-point attempt that was short.
“We were probably a shot or two away from really scaring some people in there,” Fosdick said. “When you’re down 10 with four minutes to play it takes tremendous effort and then a little bit of luck from the other team to finish something like that. But the fight was unreal and that’s the most important thing.”
As Huron made its way back to the free throw line with less than 2 seconds left, Fosdick called his starters off the floor. The fight was over.