BASKETBALL: Freshman Sanderson Paces Saline to Victory over Salem

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It looked like a new era of Saline basketball might have commenced Tuesday, even as varsity head coach Mike Marek and his Hornets were facing the team and the coach Marek learned under.

Freshman Jonathan Sanderson scored a team-high 20 points and junior Dylan Mesman added 17 as Saline defeated Salem, 71-52, at Saline High School in the Hornets' opening game of the 2022-23 season.

The Hornets started a little slowly, leading 15-13 after the first quarter. Saline pulled away with a 22-point second quarter and led 37-23 at halftime.

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Mesman, the 6'5, 230-pound junior, scored 11 of his 17 points in the second quarter to help Saline pull away.

"It took us a few seconds to get us used to it. We have four returning players from last year, so it's definitely a big transition from last year, but overall I think we played really good. We definitely showed a lot of force and we'll definitely be one of the best in the SEC," Mesman said following the game.

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Sanderson was a revelation on opening night. It's been a long time - if it ever happened - since a freshman made varsity and scored 20 points the way Sanderson did Tuesday.

Senior captain Garrett Baldwin said Sanderson is the real deal.

"He's a dog. 20 points is crazy for a freshman playing in the highest division in Michigan. He's a dog. He's going to go somewhere good playing basketball," Baldwin said. "I'm excited to see him play the rest of the year."

Coach Mike Marek had heard rumblings  about the talented player when accepted the job at Saline last year.

"He's a special player. There are not many freshmen up on varsity and playing the way he did. He was one of the best players on the court tonight," Marek said. "I heard about him before I got to Saline and once I got here and saw the kid, he's not just a good basketball player, he's a great kid and that's what I like about him the most. Yeah, he's special and he can score buckets. But he's a great kid who comes from a great family and I'm looking forward to a tremendous season for him."

Marek said the high-motor guard is going to be playing D-1 in four years.

Here's the first three-pointer of Sanderson's career.

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For coach Marek, the game was as much about his basketball roots as it was about the promising immediate future of the Hornets. Marek was starting point guard under Hall of Fame coach Bob Brodie for three years at Salem. Brodie stepped down last year and was replaced by Ryan Nimergruth, who coached Marek as a freshman.

"I have tremendous respect for those two coaches. I learned a lot from them in my time at Salem. I have a special place in my heart for Salem. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into that program," Marek said. "It came full circle tonight to, 15 years later, coach against him. It was pretty cool."

When asked what that Salem basketball program and their coaches instilled in him, Marek did not hesitate.

"Toughness, hustle, playing with heart. It takes zero talent to hustle. It takes zero talent to play hard. That's something coach Brodie taught me and that's something I try to implement with our team," Marek said.

The Hornets visit Huron Friday for a big SEC Red matchup.

Below is a collection of tweets and links to our photo gallery from the game.

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