BASKETBALL; Saline Fights Through Shooting Droughts to Defeat Canton in OT, Remain Unbeaten

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Saline overcame a couple scoring droughts and found a way to defeat Canton, 51-44, in an exciting varsity girls' basketball game that required overtime Tuesday at Saline High School.

Saline improved to 3-0 ahead of the SEC Red season which begins Friday at home to Bedford.

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Sophie Canen scored a career-high 26 points and also had three steals and two blocks. Kate Stemmer scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and had four steals. Taylor Kangas had six points, five rebounds, 10 steals and three blocks. Ella Dean scored four points, blocked three shots and grabbed five steals. Anna Hesse scored two points, had 10 boards and two blocks.

"I just couldn't be prouder. They faced adversity and they bounced back," Saline head coach Leigh Ann Roehm said about her team after the game. "I felt they looked the most comfortable when the pressure got on. When they closed the gap and then in overtime, that's when we looked the most confident and we had everything flowing. That says a lot about these girls - about the potential that they have. This team is going to be something special as we figure this out."

Canton brought a big, strong and tough team to Saline High School Tuesday. Early in the game they seemed to contest most shots - especially in the paint.

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Saline was down 2-0 until Ella Dean got the Hornets on the board, making her shot on a drive to the hoop as she was fouled. Then she made her free throw and Saline led, 3-2, 3:02 into the contest. After that basket, the Hornets went almost a full eight minutes without a field goal.

Canton led 7-3 when the Hornets were awarded two free throws on a technical foul. Kate Stemmer knocked them both down to make it 7-5.

With 2:35 left in the quarter, Sophie Canen went 2-for-2 from the line to tie the score at 7.

Canton opened the second quarter with a couple baskets and led 11-7.

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Canen who struggled with her shooting from the field in the first quarter, found a groove in the second quarter with a silky spin of her defender before nailing a jumpshot and then, after a Canton basket, a three-pointer.

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With 1:02 to play in the half, Canen tied the game at 13 when she went 1-for-2 from the free throw line. Canton regained the lead with a basket - but Josie Cayen brought people out of their seats by swishing a buzzer-beating three-pointer from just inside half.

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Saline led 16-15 at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, it seemed like the Hornets were starting to take control of the game.

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Taylor Kangas opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it 19-15. Canton replied with a basket. Saline then went on a six-point run. Canen made two free throws. Then she put back a three attempt by Dean to make it 23-17.

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Then Kangas found Anna Hesse going to the net and Hesse made her layup to make it 25-17.

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The Hornets seemed like they were pulling away - until Canton responded with a layup and two three-pointers to tie the game at 25.

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Canen righted the ship before the end of the third quarter with a three-pointer and Saline led 28-25 going into the fourth.

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Stemmer made her first field goal of the game to open the fourth quarter, driving from the wing and finding the basket. Saline led 30-25 37 seconds into the quarter. But for the next four minutes, it was all Canton. As the Hornets went cold, Canton went on a 10-0 run and took a 35-30 lead.

With 3:22 left in the fourth, Canen went 1-for-2 from the line to cut into the lead. Then, Canen came up with the clutch three-pointer with 2:58 to play in the fourth, getting the Hornets to within one.

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Canton made another basket and led 37-34 into the final minute of the fourth.

That's when Stemmer took over, rebounding a Canen shot and banking it in with 55 seconds left to make it 37-36, Canton. Seconds later, Canen caused a turnover.

"I really just wanted to pressure the ball. Since I tipped it, and I knew that Kate was going, I passed it to her and she scored," Canen said.

"The pressure was on. I was just focusing in on my layup. I've done this a million times. I know I can hit these layups. I know I can do it for my team. It was just exciting to see the ball go through the net and to put our team in the lead," Stemmer said.

With 13 seconds left on the clock, Canen made two more free throws to make it 40-37.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, Canton wasn't ready to submit. One of their players made the first of two free throws. They missed the second - and Canton rebounded it and put it back up for two as the buzzer sounded.

The game was tied at 40 and headed for overtime.

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Stemmer opened the scoring right off the jump ball. Beth Ann Ford picked up the loose ball and fired it to a streaking Stemmer who banked in her shot.

Canton tied it at 42 on their next trip up the floor.

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The Hornets took a 45-42 lead when Ford prevented a ball from going out of bounds and passed to Canen, who seconds later hit a three-pointer. Canton replied with a two-point field goal.

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Kangas hit a big three-pointer to make it 48-44, shooting over a defender.

Down the stretch, the Canen went 2-for-2 and Dean went 1-for-2 from the line.

The game reminded Canen of one of the many big playoff games she's been involved in since she began playing with the varsity team as a freshman.

"It was so exciting. Even with the crowd that stayed, I love that atmosphere. It was like we were winning a championship game," Canen said.

Stemmer agreed.

"It was the best environment we've had in a while. With the crowd and our team, we got so excited," Stemmer said. "It was the best feeling I can have on the court, because I know that what we're doing is creating a better team and a better atmosphere for the next game, too."

Saline hosts a very good Bedford team Friday.

The Saline Post's 3 Stars

1. Sophie Canen - Credit to Canen who had a very frustrating first quarter, but just kept at it. She wound up with a career-high 26 points. Every time Saline needed a big play, Canen was involved. That's what you want from your senior star.

2. Kate Stemmer - Like Canen, she struggled to find her shot but stuck with it. She had six of her 10 points in the fourth quarter - including the two baskets in the final minute of the fourth that erased Canton's late lead.

3. Taylor Kangas - Anna Hesse gets honorable mention for her rebounding, but Kangas had another very good all-around game. She also hit the three-pointer that pretty much sealed the game and continues to be the emotional center of this team.

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