BASKETBALL: Saline Rains 3s on Belleville to Advance to the District Championship.
ANN ARBOR- Sometimes the scorekeeper knows best. Underneath his sweater, long-time Saline scorekeeper Doug Soper wore a t-shirt that said "Salin3. It's Raining 3s."
Down 16-13 in the second quarter, Saline made four three-pointers in the final 3:45 to take a 26-20 lead. The Hornets went on to defeat Belleville, 53-38, and advance to Friday's district championship game against Pioneer at Ann Arbor Huron.
The Hornets finished with eight three-pointers - two each for Kate Stemmer, Taylor Kangas and Ella Dean and one each for Sophie Canen and Kaidyn Maida.
"We got a lot of open threes. That came from handling the pressure and then pivoting - finding the open person - so we got uncontested looks," coach Leigh Ann Roehm said.
Roehm couldn't have been happier about her team effort Wednesday.
"I couldn’t be prouder of this team. They stepped out with confidence and owned their awesomeness. Belleville is a talented team that puts a lot of pressure on you and I thought the team handled it well, took care of the ball and found the open person," Roehm said. "The way we moved and shared the ball set us up for hitting 8 threes by 5 different players."
Sophie Canen led the charge with 20 points.
"I thought Sophie played with great poise and helped us control the tempo. She was perfect from the line tonight and that was huge as well," Roehm said. "So proud of her leadership and effort. Sophie will now be going to the fourth District Championship game of her career. She’s ready!"
As good as Sophie was, the story might have been the scoring depth.
"I thought the difference was the way so many players stepped up in big moments. Taylor, Kate, Ella and Kadyn all made huge buckets down the stretch and Beth Ann and Anna really did a job on the glass in the second half. This was a total team effort," Roehm said.
That scoring depth is one of several things lacking when the Hornets went through a rough patch earlier this year. Other issues included turnovers and tough third quarters. Saline checked all three boxes in Wednesday's victory.
"We did the things that were our faults in our losses. We had multiple people step up and come in and play well. We took care of the basketball and we had a good third quarter," Roehm said. "That confidence that kids shot with. Every kid that came on the floor looked like they belonged and they were ready for the moment."
Stemmers Game Tying 3
After taking a 12-10 lead, the Hornet shooters went dry early in the second quarter. At the same time, Belleville's physical and fast team was having some success on the boards and generation second and third chances. Midway through the quarter, Belleville led 16-13 and definitely had the momentum. That's when sophomore Kate Stemmer hit a three-pointer to stabilize things for Saline.
"A team like that, they get on a run and they get excited and then they get to their rotations a little faster and then they make another hustle play and it can really snowball," Roehm said. "Kate stuck the pin in it."
Stemmer said she could feel the importance of the moment because of the crowd and the cheering from teammates.
"But just knowing I've gone to the gym and done the work. Hitting that three and seeing it go through the net was just amazing for me as a player," Stemmer said.
It was Saline's first three. They hit three more, including one more by Stemmer, in the next 3:45 to take a 26-20 lead into the dressing room at halftime.
Canen's 3 Point Play
Early in the third, Belleville hit a three to get back to within two-points. Canen got all three back in dramatic fashion, driving through the lane and putting the shot up as she was fouled. The ball bounced on the rim as the foul was called. As it fell into the net, Kangas and Canen celebrated.
Canen made the free throw (She was 8-for-8 from the stripe Wednesday) and Saline led 31-26.
Dean Delivers the Knockout Punch
Saline led 33-26 with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter when the officials assessed Canen with her third foul of the night. If there was a chance for Belleville to claw their way back into the contest, this was it. Instead, Saline got the ball back and the Hornets went on the attack. Maida delivered the pass to a wide open Dean, who made the shot. Saline led 36-26 with 2:24 to play in the quarter.
- Sophie Canen 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks
- Kadyn Maida 8 points, 2 blocks
- Kate Stemmer 7 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 assists
- Ella Dean 6 points, 2 assists
- Taylor Kangas 6 points, 3 blocks, 2 assists
- Beth Ann Ford 4 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
- Anna Hesse 2 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals
Saline vs Pioneer
Pioneer defeated Ypsilanti Lincoln, 50-31, after Saline's game, setting up the Saline-Pioneer final. Saline defeated Pioneer at Pioneer, 40-33, on Dec. 14. Pioneer defeated Saline at Saline, 44-36, on Feb. 4.
The championship game is at 7 p.m., Friday at Ann Arbor Huron.
Been Here Before
This is Saline's fourth straight trip to the district championship game. In 2020, Saline defeated Belleville 64-32. In 2019, Saline defeated Huron 50-44. In 2018, Pioneer defeated Saline 28-26.