BASKETBALL: Lincoln Ends Saline's Season in the District Finals


BELLEVIILLE - If you had asked coach Mike Marek before the season if he’d be satisfied by his young Saline boys’ basketball team winning the SEC Red and having the lead to start the fourth quarter of the district final, he’d have said yes.

But Saline’s 62-57 loss to Lincoln in the district championship was a bitter pill to swallow.

“I’m extremely proud of everything this team did this year. Nobody looked at our roster before the season and saw us winning the conference or having a chance in the districts. I love our guys. They accomplished so much. And tonight, we battled until the very end. But we just didn’t get many bounces tonight,” Marek said.

And so the Hornets’ season is over.

“That’s the hard thing - knowing there won’t be a practice tomorrow with the guys. This is a special group of players,” Marek. “We had two seniors and a junior and the rest were sophomores. We grew so much this season. Nobody wants to talk about it tonight, because we felt like we should have won this game. But this team has so much potential to be great next year.”

Saline and Lincoln split their season series, with the Hornets winning at Lincoln and the Railsplitters winning at Saline.

Most of the district championship game was a back-and-forth affair. Lincoln led 4-2 before Jonathan Sanderson hit a three-pointer. Caleb Washington (9 points) hit a three to give Saline an 8-5 lead. Lincoln scored the next six points to go up 11-8.

Sanderson sliced through the defense and scored to make it a one-point game. Lincoln Keyes went 1-for-2 from the line to tie it at 11. But Lincoln scored to make it 13-11 at the end of the quarter.

Saline started the second quarter with four points - two free throws by LaDainian Woods and a jumpshot from the top of the key by Sanderson. Saline led 15-13. But the Railspillers scored a three-pointer and a free throw to take a 17-15 lead.

The back and forth continued. Tommy Carr hit two three-pointers to give Saline a 21-17 lead. Ya Sin Ali scored to cut the lead to one. Sanderson replied with a three to make it 24-20. Avery White scored to make it a two-point game.

Lincoln Keyes put a rebound back to finish the scoring in the second quarter and give Saline a 26-22 lead at halftime.

The third quarter began with Sanderson hitting a long three-pointer. Saline led 29-22. It was Saline’s biggest lead of the game.

White and Woods traded 2-for-2 shooting from the stripe

Dante Wimberly hit a three-pointer to make it a four-point game and then the Railsplitters scored again. Saline led 31-29.

Sanderson hit a three to make it 34-29.

The Railsplitters went on a six-point run capped by a three-pointer by Jashaun Davis to go up 35-34.

Washington hit a three from the corner to put Saline back up, 37-35.

Lincoln got baskets from Ali and White to jump back in front, 39-37.

Saline tied the game when Woods and Sanderson each went 1-for-2 from the line.

Washington then gave Saline fans something to cheer about with another three-point from in front of the bench to make it 42-39 Saline. Sanderson was fouled and went 2-for-2 to make it 44-39.

A short time later Woods made a pretty layup to give Saline a 46-41 lead but Lincoln scored twice before the buzzer and Saline led 46-45 after three quarters.

Lincoln opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and, after a turnover, another basket. The Railsplitters led 50-46.

Keyes got two points with a power move over Jashaun Davis.

Then Sanderson put Saline up 51-50 with a basket from outside the top of the key.

The Railsplitters replied with a basket to go up 52-51.

The Hornets regained the lead for the last time when Carr inbounded to Sanderson to one-touched it into the net to make it 53-52 Saline.

Wimberly put the Railsplitters up for good by going 2-for-2 from the stripe after a foul call the Saline bench was not happy about with 1:39 to play.

The Hornets turned the ball over on the next possession and Lincoln took a 56-53 lead. After another Saline foul, Wimberly made a couple of free throws to make it 58-53 with 1:09 to play.

During a fierce battle for a rebound, Eric Jones was fouled - and he in turn elbowed Sanderson in the jaw for a technical. They traded free throw points but the Hornets continued to lose ground. Sanderson hit a three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left to get Saline within five with 6 seconds left, but time ran out on the Hornets and Lincoln won, 62.57.

It was the final game as a Hornet for seniors Peyton Widen and Brad Levanthal.

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