BASKETBALL: Sanderson, Keyes Lead Saline to 54-49 Defeat of Belleville as Playoffs Begin


Jonathan Sanderson scored 31 points and Lincoln Keyes added 11 points with hard work under the basket to lead Saline to a 54-49 defeat of Belleville in the MHSAA District Semifinal at Belleville High School Wednesday.

Saline (19-4) will play Ypsilanti-Lincoln (17-6) for the district championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Belleville. Saline hasn't won a district championship since 2008. Saline and Lincoln split their SEC Red games this year. The winner of the district championship will play against Canton (19-4) or Wayne Memorial (16-6) in the regional semifinal on March 5 at Northville.

In Tuesday's game, the Hornets caught fire in the second quarter, thanks to 12 points from Sanderson, and then snuffed out Belleville comeback attempts in the third and fourth quarters.

"I'm so proud of the team. They buckled down in the crunch time and found a way to win," Saline head coach Mike Marek said. "That's what we have to do this time of year - survive and advance. That's a really good Belleville team we played. They don't go away. For our guys to hold them off, in their home gym, I couldn't be more proud."

Sanderson opened the scoring putting back a rebound before Belleville responded with eight straight points. 


The Hornets got back into the game with a three-pointer from Tommy Carr. Sanderson followed with a jump shot from the top of the key. Saline was down 8-7. Belleville went up 11-7. Sanderson hit a three-pointer while getting fouled to make it a one-point game. Belleville took a 13-10 lead into the second quarter.


The second quarter belonged to Sanderson. He opened the quarter with a contested three to tie the game. Belleville went up 17-13 before Carr hit his second three of the half to close the gap to one. Lincoln Keyes was fouled and went 2-for-2 to give Saline its first lead of the game, 18-17. The Tigers went up 19-18 but Sanderson put the Hornets back up with a one-handed slam.


Sanderson followed that up with a layup to give Saline a 22-19 lead.

Jalen Jenkins knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 22. Once again, Sanderson replied with a three. Saline led 25-22.


He made another basket and Caleb Washington added a point from the stripe to give Saline a 28-22 halftime lead.

Belleville came out in the third determined to stop Sanderson - forcing him to endure tough double coverage.

Keyes made it 29-22 after going 1-for-2 from the stripe. Sanderson did the same, making it 30-22. The Tigers climbed back in the game with a couple baskets, cutting Saline's lead to 30-26. 


Saline got a boost when LaDainian Woods scored to make it 32-26. But Jenkins hit a three and Belleville added another basket. Saline led 32-31.

Sanderson broke loose for a three-pointer and Woods hit another layup to make it 37-31. Belleville hit a three to make it a three-point game. But Sanderson recharged the lead by making a layup and one to make it 40-34 just before the end of the quarter.

Belleville opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and a three-point play by Jenkins. 

Saline wouldn't give up the lead. Carr dove for a loose ball and fed a desperation bounce bass to Keyes who laid in for two, Saline led 42-40. The Tigers tied it.


Keyes put Saline up 44-42 when he put back the rebound of a Sanderson shot. Then he made it 46-42 by sinking two free throws. Belleville got one point back from the stripe.


And then Sanderson delivered a dagger a left-handed floater off the backboard, up and in as he was fouled. The basket left players stunned as Hornet fans roared. Sanderson made the free throw and Saline led 49-43.

Jenkins hit another three-pointer to make it 49-46. Sanderson replied by putting back a rebound to make it 51-46. Jenkins hit another three to make it 51-49.

Lincoln Keyes came up with an offensive rebound and was fouled. Keyes went 2-for-2 to give Saline a 53-49 lead. He finished the game 7-for-8 from the stripe. That was a remarkable feat for a sophomore, pressed into a large role this year, who'd struggled with free throws much of the season.

"We've been working on that a lot, especially my coach. We've been shooting at least 50 free throws a day, so it's been improving a lot," Keyes said.

Keyes then came up with a huge defensive rebound on the other side of the court. Washington added another free throw point.

Keyes was one of several Hornets who played for the football team that lost in the playoffs to Belleville this fall.

"That was definitely in our minds. We wanted that game back, so we've been waiting for this game for a while, and we took it to him," Keyes said.

More News from Saline
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified