Ask any member of the Saline Hornets varsity basketball team and they’ll tell you they’ve dedicated the 2012-13 season to turning the basketball program around. The boys cooked up another turnaround in Saturday night’s 58-56 home opening win over Canton.
Down 45-27 with 11 minutes to go in the game, the Saline (2-0) defense turned up the pressure, shooters Reece Dils and Michael Hendrickson found their groove, and Max Recknagel played a little surlier under the rim. Recknagel finished with 19 points. Dils (18 points) and Hendrickson (14 points) also put up solid numbers for Saline.
The only number that matters in Saline basketball these days is 180.
The 180-degree turnaround is part of a mindset that senior Reece Dils said will carry on all season. And it was the kind of comeback that you haven’t seen from Hornet basketball teams in recent years.
“180 is about us turning the program around. In the past we’ve had a tendency in those games to kind of quit and not fight back. We’re trying to turn this program around and change what we’re about,” said Dils, who starred as a sophomore and then missed his entire junior year with an injury.
Saline coach Eric Williams said he’s proud of the way his team managed to balance its intensity with patience during the comeback.
“The worst thing you can do is think you can make a 10-point shot,” Williams said. “We just dug a little deeper and played harder defense and then made the most of our opportunities.”
For the first six minutes of the game, the Chiefs and Hornets traded baskets. Dils and Caleb Luckett had three point shots for the Hornets, while Recknagel and Erik Jacobsen scored for Saline. Late in the quarter, the Hornets started to lag. Canton was quicker to the hoop and Saline struggled with shot selection and boxing out. Canton led 20-15 after the quarter. Saline managed just two field goals in the second quarter, a three from Dils and layup from Recknagel. The Hornets fell further behind, 32-20.
“As bad as we were playing, I felt we were fortunate to only be down by 12 points at halftime,” Williams said. “It’s opening night. The team is so excited and pumped to play that you’re tired 45 seconds into the game.”
Down 38-22 early in the third quarter Dils sank a three-point shot and then dropped a pretty pull-up jumper to make it an 11-point game. But Canton responded with seven straight points from Ryan Planey. Down 45-27, Recknagel got the comeback started with less than three minutes to play in the third. He made a layup and sank the free throw for a three-point play. Dils followed that up with a nice drive to the net and then Hendrickson hit a three pointer to make it a 10-point game. Recknagel made another layup late in the quarter after great pass from Gabe Becton.
“Gabe Becton did a great job of getting in, drawing two guys to him and finding the open man,” Williams said.
The Hornets were down 48-37 going into the fourth.
Hendrickson began the fourth with two three-point baskets in the opening minute to make it 48-43. After two points on Canton free throws, Luckett scored and then Dils sank a three to make it 50-48.
“Three pointers are a big part of our game. Michael Hendrickson and Reece Dils give us two guys who can get hot and take over a game,” Williams said.
A Canton free throw made it a three point game. Dils cut it to one with 2:31 to play on a nice move to the hoop. The comeback looked like it might end there when Canton got baskets from Davon Taylor and Greg Williams to make it 55-50 with 1:40 to play.
Hendrickson, two feet behind the three-point line at the top of the arc, dropped a three pointer to make it a two point game.
“I don’t know what I was thinking. But it just felt right so I put it in the air. I was just feeling it,” said Hendrickson, who had four three-pointers in the game’s final 10 minutes.
The Hornet defense got the ball back and Recknagel layup tied the game at 55 with 58 seconds to play. After Canton’s Williams made one of two free throws for a 56-55 lead, Recknagel scored in the paint again to put Saline up for the first time since 1:58 into the contest.
The 6’7 Recknagel said he enjoys being the Hornets’ big man.
“It feels great. I feel like I’m running the floor well. I love taking on that role and being the big man on campus,” Recknagel said.
The Hornets defense came up with the ball again and then Hendrickson made a free throw for Saline’s final basket. Canton had a chance to tie it with possession and six seconds to play. Dils broke up a pass and a last ditch shot was off target.
Saline improved to 2-0 and visits Southgate Anderson Tuesday.