BASKETBALL: 4-Minute Third Quarter Outage Costs Hornets, Saline Ousted in District Semifinal

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YPSILANTI - An early third quarter outage cost Saline, as the Hornets fell to Belleville, 43-36, in the district semifinal Wednesday at Ypsilanti-Lincoln High School.

Saline began the third quarter down 20-17. Belleville went on a 10-point run before Romeo Love put it to an end with a 3-pointer.

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Saline closed the gap to four points with three minutes to play before Belleville pulled away.

Saline finished the season with a 14-8 record.

Coach Michael Marek said he was proud of the way his team played.

"I'm so proud of the team and the way they battled all season, one through 17 after our JV call-ups. I appreciate every one of those kids- not just the ones on the floor at the end of the game or the ones that played in the game - every single one of those kids for showing up every day and being committed and dedicated to the program," Marek said. "That means everything to me. They're always welcome back in the gym. I have love for every one of those kids."

Saline struggled to find offense early in the game. The Hornets were down 4-0 before Dylan Mesman put Saline on the board with a jumpshot with 3:25 into the period.

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After a Belleville three-pointer made it 7-2, Saline owned the rest of the quarter. Braden LaRusso propelled the Hornets with a couple of great drives to the hole. Cooper Fairman and Tyler Thibeault also made baskets for the Hornets as Saline led 10-9 going into the second quarter.

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The Hornets' strong play continued in the second quarter. After a Belleville basket, Thinbeault made another layup.

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After a Belleville basketball, Saline got a three-pointer from LaRusso and a basket by Romeo Love.

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Saline led 17-13 with 3:32 left to play in the quarter and looked very strong. But the Hornets didn't score again until midway through the third quarter. Before Love broke the 17-point run midway through the third quarter, Saline was down 30-17.

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Belleville replied to Love's 3 with their own basket. Josh Koch scored back-to-back baskets to end the third quarter, to get Saline within 9 at 32-23.

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Koch continued his strong play in the fourth quarter. He opened the scoring by stealing the ball and breaking away for a layup.

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Then he rebounded Love's missed three-pointer and put it back.

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Saline was within five at 32-27. The Hornets' were in some foul trouble and gave three points back at the stripe. Saline was down 35-27 when they mounted their last true charge.

First, Mesman put back the rebound of Love's shot after he danced through the paint.

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Then Love hit a contested jump shot from just inside the arc.

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Saline was down 35-31 with 2:55 to play. Belleville got two points back at the free throw line and then dashed Saline's hopes with a three-pointer.

The Hornets battled and scrapped for points until the final buzzer.

Nothing about Saline's down-to-the-last-minute fight surprised coach Marek.

"They do that all the time. They do that in practice. They get after it," Marek said. "I knew when were down 13 that we weren't out of it. I knew we were going to fight back. They left it all on the court and that's all I can ask for."

LaRusso led Saline with nine points. Love and Koch each finished with seven points.

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