BASKETBALL: Mesman Scores 16 to Pace Saline in Holiday Tournament Victory

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Saline's varsity boys' basketball team returned to winning ways during a hastily scheduled game against Walled Lake Northern at North Farmington High School Monday.

Led by 16 points by 6'6 sophomore Dylan Mesman, in his first varsity start, Saline defeated Walled Lake Northern, 57-49 on opening day of the three-day 2021 Holiday Extravaganza at North Farmington. 

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Walled Lake Northern was originally scheduled to play Southfield. On Sunday, Saline coach Michael Marek got an offer to step.

"North Farmington needed another team for this event and we jumped at the opportunity," Marek said.

Mesman and his teammates were happy to get the chance to play.

"Our last game was Friday, a couple weeks ago, and we lost that game. We really wanted to bounce back. It's been itching at us for awhile," Mesman said.

Senior Romeo Love said the team didn't learn about the context until Sunday.

"It was random. I don't mind it, because I just love playing basketball," Love said.

Coach Marek placed an emphasis on getting every healthy player involved, which was just fine by Love.

"Guys that don't play as much, we got to get them in and got some good experience for the boys," Love said.

The Hornets opened the scoring with Cooper Fairman going 1-for-2 from the stripe. WL Northern went ahead, 2-1, with a layup.

Mesman had back-to-back baskets underneath to give Saline a 5-2 lead.

At times, Saline struggled hanging on to the basketball. - especially in the first half. Some of those turnovers helped the Knights take a 6-5 lead. 

Braden LaRusso put the Hornets back in front. 8-6, with a three-pointer.

The Knights responded with a three-pointer and then a couple of free throws for an 11-8 lead.

Saline finished the quarter strong, with Garrett Baldwin hitting a three-pointer, Love making a tricky move to get underneath and past a big under the hoop, and a basket by Nick Boettger.

Saline led 15-11 after the seven-point run.

The Hornets opened the second quarter with two points on a basket by the speedy Love.

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After a basket by the Knights, Tyler Thibault took a pass from Fairman and laid in for two and a 19-13 lead. The Knights traded a couple of free throws for a Fairman layup and Saline led 21-15.

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After Mesman went 3-for-4 from the line, Saline led 24-19. Saline showed good ball movement with Josh Koch finishing for two baskets late in the second quarter. Saline led 31-24 at halftime.

After the Knights opened the scoring in the third quarter Saline went on a nine-point run to take their first true grip on the game. Mesman scored from in the paint off an inbound-pass.  Minutes later, he scored again in the paint. 

LaRusso scored on a strong drive to the hoop and then Baldwin hit his second three-pointer of the game. Saline led 40-26. The Knights replied with a basket that was answered by Koch. The Knights closed to within 10 before Love scored to make it 44-32. Saline led 44-34 to start the fourth quarter.

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After the Knights opened the fourth quarter with a basket, LaRusso replied with a quick drive from the left wing.

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The Knights got one point back at the stripe that was answered with a Mesman basket to make it 48-37.

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When the Knights closed the gap to 48-39, Mesman replied with a nifty three-pointer from the point. Saline led 51-39.

"I've been really working on the three recently. I used to not really have that in my bag, but I improved and I'm able to make them now," said Mesman.

Down the stretch, the Hornets got baskets from Koch, Fairman and Baldwin.

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Marek felt his team was a little sloppy, but was still pleased with the effort.

"We found out at 7:30 or 8 that we were going to play this game. We got on it right away and I got some film, we broke it down and I got a scouting report.  At practice this morning we did shootaround and watched film. On short notice, we were still prepared. A little sloppy for my liking, but I'm going to credit that to Walled Lake Northern. They sped us up and played well," Marek said. "But I'm proud of the boys that we found a way to win. That's kind of our mindset."

Marek was happy with Mesman, who was named game MVP by the tournament organizers. 

"He's really come along. Today he was named a starter for the first time this year. Walled Lake Northern had a big guy in there that was really tough to stop. But Dylan stepped up to the challenge. He's been progressing all year," Marek said. "He's only a sophomore. I can't wait to see where he's going to be when he's a senior."

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