Saline bounced back from their first loss of the season to defeat Pioneer, 47-40, in a physical and intense contest at Pioneer High School Friday.
Ella Stemmer scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and four steaks to pace the Hornets. Sophie Canen scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds to go along with two steals. Steffi Bentley scored seven points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. Liz Sekerak hit a pair of timely three-pointers for the Hornets.
Saline improved to 9-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC Red. Pioneer fell to 6-3 overall and 1-1 in the SEC Red.
Similar to the Bedford game, things didn’t start well for the Hornets. Saline found themselves down 22-13 after the first quarter and needed a spark from Stemmer late in the second quarter to go into the dressing room tied at 27.
“I was proud at the way fought back from adversity. We had a bunch of things go wrong to start with and they never wavered and continued to battle,” coach Leigh Ann Roehm said. “We had an emotional loss on Tuesday. How you respond, coming back the next game, is always really telling. I was really happy with the way we didn’t let it get out of control. We found our rhythm again and then we just worked to get it done.”
Right off the bat, the Pioneers jumped to a 5-0 lead with a three by Mya Hicks and a basket by Alexis Clark. Stemmer got the Hornets to within one with a put-back for two points and then two points from the stripe.
Felicia Stewart made it 7-4 with a couple shots from the line. Then Canen and Clark traded points from the stripe and Pioneer led, 8-5.
Sekerak tied the game with a three-pointer, but Brein Bogan replied with a two-point basket. Steffi Bentley gave the Hornets their first lead with a basket and the and-one shot from the line to make it 11-10. The Hornets looked like they’d regained their footing. But they slipped again. The Pioneers went on a 10-point run, getting two baskets from Clark and two three-pointers from Jacquelyn Brines. Pioneer led 20-11.
After Canen went 2-for-2 from the line, Clark made another basket for the Pioneers. Pioneer led 22-13 after the first quarter.
A lesser team might have folded on the road after such a quarter. The Hornets defense turned up the intensity.
“Clark had a great first quarter. So as soon as we started getting help in the post, then they started missing some shots. And with our rebounding efforts we got a few easy breaks and it turned the tale,” Roehm said.
The Hornets opened the second quarter with Bentley taking a pass from Canen and scoring a short jumper. Pioneer’s Felicia Stewart and Canen traded points from the stripe and it was 23-16.
Ella Stemmer followed with a three-pointer to make it 23-19. She added a point from the stripe to make it a three-point game.
After a basket by Pioneer’s Lauren DeWolf made it 25-20, Brielle Eugenie added a point from the stripe for Saline. DeWolf made it 27-21 with two more points from the free-throw line.
Stemmer got the Hornets to within three with a three-pointer with 1:48 to play in the half. Then she tied it with 1:18, making a basket and the and-one, knotting the score at 27.
The teams went into halftime tied at 27.
Early in the third, it looked like Saline might pull away. Stemmer scored a beautiful basket on an end-to-end attack, giving Saline its first two-point lead of the contest. Then Canen put back a rebound with a gorgeous turn-around jumper. Saline led 31-27.
But the Pioneers weren’t done. Hicks replied with a basket and then Stewart hit a three-pointer. The Pioneers, who’d scored one field goal in the previous 12 minutes, were suddenly back in front, 32-31, and their home gym was rocking.
Saline was undeterred. Emily Wilcynski’s only basket of the night, a 12-foot jumper, put the Hornets up for good with 2:09 to play in the third. Saline got a steal and Stemmer rushed down the floor to make it 35-32.
A minute later, Sekerak scored a three-pointer to make it 38-32. The Hornets took that lead into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, Bentley opened scoring with a power move in the paint, giving Saline an eight-point lead. The Pioneers weren’t about to give up yet. Clark replied with a basket and then DeWolf went 2-for-2 from the line. The Hornets were up 40-36.
Saline went up 41-36 after Canen went 1-for-2 from the line. Clark cut into that lead by going 2-for-2 from the line, but Stemmer put Saline back up 43-38 with two points from the stripe.
The Pioneers kept their hopes alive when DeWolf stole a pass at midcourt and raced in for a basket, making it 43-40 with 1:19 to play. The Pioneers got the ball back on another turnover, but the Hornets forced a weak shot and Canen grabbed the rebound. She was fouled and went to the stripe for a one-and-one with 38 seconds to play. The sophomore came up big, going 2-for-2 to give Saline a 45-40 lead. Stemmer added a couple more points from the free-throw line in the final seconds to put the game away.
In other SEC Red action, Huron visited Bedford and won, 53-51, handing the Mules (8-1) their first loss of the season. Huron has a 9-2 record and is 2-0 in the SEC Red. Monroe (4-4) defeated Skyline (0-10), 44-22.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
Ella Stemmer was the engine of the Hornets. It looked like the Pioneers were determined to play her physically and intimidate her. Didn’t work. Stemmer scored 22.
Steffi Bentley had a tough job going against a big, strong sophomore named Alexis Clark. Bentley had to fight for every inch in the paint and, like Stemmer, probably has a few bruises to show for it. In the end, Stemmer brought down a bunch of rebounds and did so without fouling out.
Sophie Canen seems to play with more and confidence every game. She scored a beautiful turn-around jumper Friday and then, later in the game, hit both ends of a huge one-and-one to give Saline important insurance. Liz Sekerak deserves some mention here two. She hit two threes - and both of them were at very important juncturs of the game.