Ella Stemmer sparked a 10-point run in the fourth quarter as Saline defeated Bedford, 47-38, at Saline High School Friday, avenging the Hornets’ overtime loss to the Mules on the road earlier this season.
It was a key win for the Hornets, who improved to 12-2 and 4-2 in the SEC Red. For one, Bedford came into the contest with a 12-1 record. The victory also keeps alive the Hornets’ chances for an SEC Championship - although Saline would have to run the table in their next four SEC Red contests and get a little help along the way. The Hornets, only weeks away from the post-season, also proved they can beat a tough team.
“It’s huge. I’m just so proud of the way that my girls seized the day,” Saline head coach Leigh Ann Roehm said. “I feel like they controlled their own mental dialogue. We didn’t let ourselves falter, even when we got a little rocky there.”
Stemmer scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds to pace the Hornets, but there was a lot of credit to go around.
“So many different kids made plays. We did this by committee. We did this with so many people contributing so many things.
Amera Boyd scored 11 points, including three threes. She also had seven rebounds and two steals. Steffi Bentley scored nine points, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and had a team-high four blocks. Sophie Canen scored seven points and had three rebounds. Liz Sekerak scored five points and had five rebounds and three assists - she also hit the three-pointer that put the Hornets up for good. Beth Ann Ford grabbed five rebounds, Brielle Eugeni had two rebounds and Emily Wilczynski grabbed one rebound.
Saline opened to a 6-0 lead with three-pointers by Boyd and Stemmer. Midway through the opening stanza, a layup by Bentley made it 8-1. They were the last points the Hornets would score until 1:40 into the second quarter. Madison Norton hit the first of her three three-pointers to make it 8-4 and Grace Ryan (seven points) made basket a little later. Saline led 8-6 after the first quarter.
The Mules opened the second quarter with baskets by Molly Koviack and Sophia Gray (10 points).
The Hornets broke their slump when Sekerak fed Bentley in the paint for a layup. Bentley then gave the Hornets an 11-10 lead with a point from the stripe. Gray got that point back with one of her own.
Canen’s beautiful drive through the paint gave the Hornets a 13-11 lead. Then Stemmer scored on a tough, power move along the baseline, making it 15-11. But Norton replied with a three and then Gray scored to make it 16-15 Bedford. Bentley laid in for two points to put Saline back up, but Bedford tied it at 17 with a free throw. Stemmer scored with 24 seconds left in the half to give Saline a 19-17 advantage after a hard-fought first half.
The see-saw affair continued into the third quarter, when there were seven lead changes. The Mules went up 21-19 after a basket by Gray and a couple free throws by Savana Killinen.
But Boyd hit her second three-pointer of the night to give Saline a 22-21 lead with 5:05 to play in the quarter. Gray put Bedford back with a basket.
Saline went up 24-23 on a basket by Sekerak after a hustle play by Boyd. The play started in Saline’s end. Boyd went up for a defensive rebound. She batted it down the court and used 100-yard dash speed to win the race. She fed Sekerak under the net for an easy basket.
“As a coach, we always talk about winning the 50-50s. Amera wants to win the 70-30s - the ones where the other team has a 70 percent chance of winning. Yet, she has this drive to go run it down,” Roehm said.
But the Mules went back up with two points from the line by Gray. The lead switched back to Saline’s side when Bentley swished a 12-foot jump shot.
With 2:30 remaining in the quarter, Killinen hit a three-pointer to give Bedford a 28-26 lead.
A lead they took into the fourth quarter. The Mules added to their lead with two free throws by Ryan 1:30 into the quarter.
On the offensive side, the Hornets were in a bit of a lull. They hadn’t scored for about four minutes.
That’s when Stemmer took over. She started around the top of the key, weaving back and forth, waiting for something to break. Finally, she chose to go to her left, fighting past the first guard and then spinning past a second before laying in for two points.
It was a clutch basket at a crucial point in the contest.
“I knew we were in a slump so I just kind of went with it,” Stemmer said.
Coach Roehm said it was the kind of play that embodied the Hornets’ victory.
“That was a tough move. Her body language throughout that entire play represented exactly what our team needed to do to overcome this obstacle - this mountain we had to climb,” Roehm said. “She was tough. She was strong. You could tell by her body language that nothing was going to stop her.”
The basket initiated a 10-point run that blew the game open.
A moment later, Canen rebounded a shot by Sekerak and put it back to tie the game at 30. Then with 5:01 to play, Sekerak hit a three-pointer. Only 32 seconds later, Stemmer hit a three from in front of the Hornet bench to make it 36-30. Madison Morton replied with a three for Bedford. But with 2:38 to play, from in front of the bench, Boyd sank her third three-pointer of the night. Saline led 39-33.
Roehm said she was proud of the way her team stayed with it after a couple of rough patches.
"I was proud of our mental toughness and the way we kept our composure," Roehm said.
Down the stretch, Canen hit a basket, and Stemmer, Canen and Boyd had baskets from the stripe.
Boyd said the Hornets worked hard to pick up a big win.
“It was very important,” said senior Amera Boyd, who hit three three-pointers among her 11 points and disrupted Bedford with her elite sprinter’s speed. “We practiced for this game all week, hardcore. We made sure we were focused at all times so we could come out and get the win.”
Saline is home to Pioneer Tuesday in another important SEC Red match.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
Ella Stemmer scored 15 points. She started the game-altering 10-point run with a tough-as-nails move to the hoop and finished it with her second three-pointer of the contest.
Amera Boyd continues to play a bigger role as the season progresses. She hit three three-pointers, had rebounds and steals and inspired teammates with all-out effort.
Steffi Bentley’s stats didn’t jump off the page, but she played strong in the paint against a pretty big Bedford team. Bentley led the Hornets in rebounds and blocks and had a couple big baskets for the Hornets, too.