BASKETBALL: Saline Falls to Huron, 46- 34, in District Semifinal

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The Hornets line up before the playing of the national anthem during Thursday's playoff game with Huron at Lincoln.

When the coronavirus hit the shores of the United States it dimmed the lights on Broadway in New York. And for the Saline Hornets, their 46 -34 loss to the Ann Arbor Huron River Rats Thursday evening at Lincoln High School in the district semi-final game, the lights on their season went out and the curtain came down.

Following the game, a subdued Saline head coach Jacob Fosdick, thanked the seniors on his squad. 

“For everything they went through this year, from not knowing if they would even have a season, to being told constantly that they were not Trevor Arico or Griffin Yaklich, the group found a way to carve out their own niche. I am very proud of them and what they have accomplished this year.”

In the semi-final game against Huron, the River Rats simply over-powered the Hornets on both ends of the court. The River Rats out-rebounded Saline 33 – 19, including on the offensive glass 11 – 6. Huron had five blocked shots, Saline none.

And Huron scored a lot of points in the paint, converting offensive rebounds and lay-ups into a lot of points. On this mild spring night, Huron was simply the better team.

Neither team committed many turnovers in the game. Through the first three quarters, Saline had three turnovers, Huron had four. In the final quarter, Saline committed four, the River Rats five.

In the opening quarter, each starter for Saline scored. Senior guard Derek Caldwell got things started by converting one of two free throws to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead. Junior guard Tyler Thibeault nailed a three-pointer to give Saline a 4-2 lead with 4:07 left.

Seniors Anthony Ferrari and Jaden Pickett scored the next five points, with Pickett hitting a three-point shot from the top of the key to stake the Hornets to a 9-7 lead with 2:17 left.

Junior forward Cooper Fairman's drive to the basket to make a heavily contested shot from close in gave Saline a slim 10-9 lead at the end of the first eight minutes of play.

Saline’s play in the second quarter was a classic example of “Murphy’s Law,” in that, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong and at the worst possible time. The Hornets managed to score just four points while giving up 15 to the River Rats.

Huron’s strong defensive play in and around the basket forced Saline into taking poor shots or altered good shots.  The River Rats blocked three Hornet shots in the quarter and blocked five in the game. Their ability to block shots forced the Saline shooters into taking off-balance shots.

Caldwell converted both ends of two free throws after Huron was assessed a technical foul after an official called a deliberate foul on a Huron player. Pickett hit a short jumper with 5:06 left in the quarter and that was the end of the scoring for the Hornets. The River Rats headed into the locker room with a 25 – 15 lead at the half.

The River Rats’ machine kept right on rolling in the third quarter. Pickett opened Saline’s scoring with a jump shot from the corner, cutting the deficit to 28-17.  Fairman followed with a three-pointer from way out, 28-20.

Saline then went five minutes before scoring again but the River Rats managed to score just four.   Junior guard Braden LaRusso scored Saline’s final four points as Saline trailed 37-24 after three quarters of play.

Saline managed to outscore Huron 11-10 in the final quarter, as they tried to press the action to close the deficit. LaRusso scored the first four points, junior Joshua Koch received a pass and connected on a turn-around jumper to pull Saline to within 12, 42-30.

Pickett hit another jumper shortly before heading to the bench in the final minute of play, along with fellow seniors Ferrari and Caldwell, to the applause of the Saline faithful in attendance at the game.

Junior guard Romeo Love scored the Hornets’ final two points of the contest with 38 seconds left, with the buzzer sounding with a 46-34 final score.

“We’ve reached the point where we are competitive in every game,” said Coach Fosdick. “We are solidly in the middle of the pack of the SEC Red division and can compete with anyone.”

“This is the first year where we went into Skyline and won. Hopefully, we can figure out what we need to do to move up to the next level and win championships again in Saline,” said Fosdick.

Hopefully, the COVID-19 virus is under control and the team can workout together this summer.

For seniors Derek Caldwell, Jaden Pickett, Anthony Ferrari, Nicholas Dils and Eli Trese, a grateful school and town thank you. You have done yourselves and your school proud.

And like those seniors who have gone before you, whatever comes next for you, your supporters wish you continued success.

And as the banner reads in the commons area at the high school. “Once A Hornet, Always A Hornet.” You will always be welcome to return to the nest, to cheer on those who follow in the footsteps you have left behind.

For the final time this season:

THE SALINE POST THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1st
Star: Jaden Pickett (9 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists)

2nd
Star: Cooper Fairman (5 points, 9 rebounds, including 3 offensive rebounds & 2 assists)

3rd
Star: Braden LaRusso (8 points, 1 assist)

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