What happened Tuesday night at Saline High School doesn’t happen very often. No, it was not as rare as a complete solar or lunar eclipse, but still, it was a rare night in Saline basketball. The freshmen team started the evening off with a 59-15 trouncing of the Trojans; The JV squad put additional hurt on Monroe winning easily 59-45, and varsity made it a clean sweep for the Hornets, downing Monroe 51-31.
In the finale of the evening, the Hornets were led by sophomore sensation Griffin Yaklich’s 17 points and slick ball handling. In a game that was never really in doubt, the young Hornet squad sometimes struggled to connect on open shots, even shots under the basket. The quiet on-court leadership of senior co-captains Emmett Turner and Erik Wenning helped to ensure the Hornets stuck with Coach Jacob Fosdick’s game plan. After last Friday night’s huge, and loud home crowd, Tuesday night in the Saline High School gym was a different story. The mostly empty gymnasium was quiet. So quiet in fact, that the Hornet bench needed to step in to create noise and enthusiasm to cheer their teammates on.
Saline raced out to a 9–0 first quarter lead and never looked back. Junior forward Connor “The Junior Beast” Terech and Ryan Koch each knocked down three-point shots, with “Baywatch” Wenning contributing four points to put Saline up 14-5 at the end of the first quarter. There is an expression in sports that players and teams often “rise to the occasion.” The converse expression is that sometimes you play “down to a team’s level.” Yaklich opened the second quarter with a drive to the basket to up the lead to 16-7. Yaklich closed out the scoring in the 2nd quarter converting a Trojan turnover into points, as Saline outscored Monroe 4-2 in the 2nd quarter, to lead 18-7 at the half.
There were some highlights to the low scoring first half. The Hornets forced the Trojans into ten first half turnovers, while Saline committed only one. Saline out rebounded Monroe 9-4.
Saline revved up the offense in the third quarter to increase its lead to 33-15, led by Yaklich and “The Beast” Emmett Turner. The two combined to score twelve of the team’s eighteen third quarter points to extend the Hornets’ lead to 33 – 15 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Trojans tried to make a game of it in the final quarter but the Hornets were successful at the free throw line, converting 10 of 13 free throw attempts to walk away with a 51-31victory. One of the largest cheers of the night happened when two Hornet reserves checked into the game with two minutes left. Seniors Zach Drevno and Jayden Belskus entered the game to the roar of the small crowd as well as their teammates. Drevno got off a couple of shots which missed the mark that brought the partisan home crowd to its feet. Unfortunately, both shots were off the mark. However, Belskus went to the free throw line with two seconds left and made both free throws, to the delight of his teammates and the crowd. The win ups Saline’s record to 4-1 on the year, 1-1 in the SEC Red Division.
After the game, Coach Fosdick had high praise for his team.
“We are a young team. You never know how the team will react following an emotional loss to a rival,” he said, referencing last Friday night’s 44 – 41 loss to Ann Arbor Pioneer. “But our captains, Turner and Wenning, used the practice time to help get everyone focused on the next game.”
At one point in the second quarter, Fosdick was looking for a spark to get his team going again. He inserted junior guard Jamesen Simion and asked him to “go out there and give me some energy”.
“I can’t say enough about how well Simion played,” Fosdick said. “He doesn’t get a lot of playing time but he never lets that affect how he practices or plays. He did a fantastic job for us tonight.”
Fosdick thought his team played tough on defense. Considering the Hornets forced the Trojans into committing 25 turnovers to the Hornets’ 5, that was some pretty intense defense. Saline was led by Yaklich’s 17 points. Turner contributed 13, Wenning 9 and Connor Terech had 6. Saline will close out 2017 by hosting Southgate Anderson Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Griffin Yaklich (17 points, 3 rebounds & 3 assists)
2nd Star: Emmett ‘The Beast’ Turner (13 points, 6 rebounds & 1 assist) & Erik Wenning (9 points, 3 rebounds & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Connor ‘The Junior Beast’ Terech (6 points, 3 rebounds) & Jamesen Simion (0 points, 0 rebounds & 0 assists but intense & stifling defense)
JV Squad Romps Past Monroe 59 – 45, Ups Season Record to 4 – 1
Another strong performance by sophomore guard Nathan Holmberg and forward Anthony Ferrari, with timely shooting by guard Josh Winn, led the Hornet JV squad past the Monroe Trojans 59 – 45, upping their season record to 4 – 4. The Hornets jumped out to a 12 – 8 first quarter lead and never trailed for a second in the contest. The first half ended with a dazzling play by sophomore guard Will Braham with less than a second on the clock.
Saline had possession of the ball, in-bounding from mid-court. Braham received the ball halfway between the free throw line and mid-court. The seconds were ticking off. Braham turned to face his opponent. With the ball in his right hand, he calmly took the ball behind his back, moved it from his right hand to his left, and got off a 40-foot shot. That shot hit off the backboard and through the net, for an incredible three-points as the buzzer went off. Braham was mobbed by his teammates.
“Tonight, was all about execution,” Saline JV Head Coach Jason Pickett said. “We work in each practice on improving on things from game to game. You saw that tonight. We worked hard on defense and that then provided us good looks at the basket and we were making our shots on offense tonight.” The Hornets will host Southgate Anderson Friday night. Tip off time is 5:30 p.m.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: Nathan Holmberg (17 points, 11 rebounds & 2 assists)
2nd Star: Anthony Ferrari (15 points, 7 rebounds & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Jayden Pickett (7 points, 2 rebounds & 2 assists)
Freshmen Squad Romps All Over Monroe, 59 – 15
The Hornets’ freshmen team absolutely stomped all over the Monroe Trojans Friday night at Saline High School, walking away with a 59 – 15 win, upping their season record to 3 – 2. Saline jumped out to a 13 – 5 first quarter lead, and then followed that up with a 12 – 0 second quarter, to go into the locker room up 25 – 5 at the half. The second half was more of the same, as the Hornets shut the Trojans out in the fourth quarter 12 – 0. Head Coach Brian Whitley was proud of his team’s efforts. “We played hard and everyone contributed. I didn’t play my starting five players for an entire half so everyone got a chance to play tonight.”
The freshmen squad will host Southgate Anderson Friday night at Saline High School. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1st Star: John Barnett (11 points)
2nd Star: Ben Sundquist, Jack Allen & Luke Rykard (8 points)
3rd Star: Fletcher Whitley (5 points)