BASKETBALL: Sanderson Scores 40 as Saline Storms Back to Defeat Salem on Opening Night
CANTON - Even on opening night, it’s not about how you start, but how you finish.
A very young Saline varsity boys’ basketball team stormed back from a 17-2 first-quarter deficit to defeat Salem, 64-54.
Jonathan Sanderson, one of six sophomores in the lineup, scored 27 of his game-high 40 points in the second half to pace the Hornets as Saline won at the alma mater of coach Mike Marek.
“I’m just proud of our guys and how we responded. To get in a hole like that and have to climb out of it shows how resilient we are. We are a young team. It’s going to take some time before we get there,” said Marek.
Marek credited Salem’s hot shooting to start the game but said Saline was a little sloppy with the ball and on defense in the first quarter. It’s important for a team to start on time, Marek said.
“That’s a good lesson to learn and it’s better to learn that lesson in a win than in a loss,” Marek said.
The Hornets found themselves down 17-2 late in the first quarter and 23-7 in the second quarter before starting their comeback. After cutting the lead to three late in the third quarter, Salem went 3-for-4 at the free throw line after a foul and technical foul, giving the Rocks a 49-41 lead at the end of three.
Down 51-42 early in the fourth quarter, Sanderson scored nine points during an 11-point run that gave Saline a lead for the first time.
After Salem tied the game, Sanderson made a spinning lay-up, Peyton Widen hit a three-pointer and Tommy Carr stole a ball and scored to give Saline a 60-53 lead. Saline never looked back.
Sanderson was an absolute menace on the floor - attacking the hoop aggressively, forcing turnovers and hitting shots from distance. The sophomore put the team on his back and got stronger as the game went on.
“He’s just playing at another level. And to do it after playing the whole game, with no breaks… He just has a motor. He just goes. He’s a special player,” Marek said. “To drop 40 on opening night, I know he’s excited about that. And if we didn’t have that tonight we wouldn’t have won the game.”
The game started slowly. It took nearly two minutes for anyone to score. Salem opened the scoring with a basket.
Saline tied the game when Sanderson found a loose ball, charged through the paint and scored. It was Saline’s last basket until the end of the quarter.
Saline was down 17-2 before Sanderson scored again.
“They hit nearly every shot in the first half, just knocking them down. Our shots weren’t falling and we had a few turnovers. We just had to clean it up. We did that,” Marek said.
Saline went into the second quarter down 17-4.
Senior Brad Leventhal gave the Hornets some life with a three-pointer but Salem replied with three straight baskets to go up 23-7.
Saline started climbing back in the game. Sanderson sandwiched a field goal and three-pointer around a Rock three. Then Widen hit a three-pointer to make it 26-15. Salem scored and then Sanderson drove through the lane for two and made a free throw to make it 29-18.
The quarter ended with Sanderson and Widen each going 1-for-2 from the stripe and LaDainian Woods making his first basket as a Hornet. Salem led 32-22 at halftime.
Sanderson’s opening statement in the third quarter was a three-pointer.Lincoln Keyes traded firee-throw points with the Rocks. Then Tommy Carr made two trips to the line and went 4-for-4. Saline was down 37-30.
The Hornets were down 42-31 when Sanderson raised his game to a different level while going on an eight-point run. At one point, he scored three baskets in around 20 seconds.
He made a layup. Woods came up with a steal and fed Sanderson for two more points. Sanderson and the Hornets looked like Sharks who smelled blood. Carr and Sanderson forced another errant pass and Sanderson scooped up the loose ball and scored.
The Hornets were within three points at 42-39.
Salem went up 46-41 when the Hornets were assessed a foul. On top of that, Woods was assessed a technical foul. The Rocks went 3-for-4 from the line and had a 49-41 lead after three.
That wasn’t enough to quell the Hornet momentum.
Saline was down 51-42 when Sanderson went on a nine-point run to tie the score early in the fourth. Keyes, who started at center, showed great toughness in the second half in his battles under the rim and he gave Saline its first lead.
The Rocks tied the score at 53.
Sanderson replied with a basket that put Saline up for good.
Widen followed with a three-pointer from the corner.
As the Rocks countered, Carr stole the ball and ran in for a layup. Saline led 60-53 and never looked back.
Saline hosts Livonia Stevenson at 7 p.m. Friday.
There were six sophomores in the lineup, though coach Marek mentioned seven sophomores on the team. That’s because Ghana Solongo, a 7’0, 255-pound sophomore who arrived in Saline this year from the Dayton area, wasn’t in the lineup. Solongo played AAU ball with Sanderson. He’s been enrolled at Saline High School all year, but his eligibility for athletics remains in question. That eligibility is further complicated by Solongo’s immigration status. Solongo hails from Mongolia. There’s a hearing with the MHSAA this week and there’s some hope Solongo could join the Hornets for Friday’s game against Stevenson.
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