HORNETS HOOPS SEASON ENDS IN LOSS TO BELLEVILLE
All good things must come to an end.
The Saline Hornets varsity basketball season ended in the gym at Lincoln High School with a 57-49 loss to the Belleville Tigers in the district championship game. At the start of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) version of March Madness, Belleville was probably favored to win the district at Lincoln. They finished their regular season with an 18-5 record and featured a very athletic squad.
Saline Head Coach Jacob Fosdick had devised a game plan for the Tigers. Prior to the game, JV Head Coach Jason Picket taled about the varsity team’s preparations for the game.
“With all the noise, the hype, the crowd and players talking, we expect Belleville to try to storm us. We plan to get through the first four minutes of the game and then see if they can play our game. We are absolutely ready to play them,” Pickett said.
The Hornets came out in the opening quarter and following a Tiger bucket, junior forward Connor Terech got Saline on the board when converting on an offensive rebound to knot the score at 2-2.
The teams traded points through the initial eight minutes of the contest. The Hornets’ combo of sophomore guards Trevor “Thunder” Arico and Griffin “Lightning” Yaklich sank three-point shots 0:27 seconds apart, with Yaklich hitting his shot with no time left on the clock. That shot staked Saline to a 16-13 first quarter lead.
The Tigers tightened their defensive pressure in the second quarter and forced three Hornet turnovers. After getting a breather, Yaklich came off the bench with 3:12 remaining. He took a short jumper to cut Belleville’s lead to 21-18.
Junior forward Ethan Friedrichsen made both free throws to cut the lead to 23-20. Terech then hit a three-pointer with 1:39 left to tie the score at 23-23. He sank another basket with 0:56 seconds left to round out Saline’s first half scoring. The Hornets went in to the locker room trailing 29-25 at the half, having been outscored in the second quarter 16-9.
Like in some many other games this season, Saline would mount a second-half surge to pull close but just couldn’t string together enough consecutive points to tie Belleville. Terech converted another offensive rebound into two more points to pull the Hornets to within four, 35-31 with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
That was a close as Saline would get.
Many thought Belleville came into the game not having much respect for Saline. That facing the Hornets didn’t even amount to a small bump in the road on their way to the regionals.
But Saline hung tough.
Senior forward Emmett “The Beast” Turner and Adam Heisler went head-to-head with Belleville’s big men. Each grabbed four second half rebounds, including two big offensive rebounds by Turner.
Turner drove through Tiger defenders who bumped and grabbed him on his way to the basket. Then Turner converted an offensive rebound into two more points to cut into Belleville’s lead, 48-39.
“Thunder” and “Lightning” added eight more points, including two three-point shots by Arico to get the Hornets to within seven, 54-47. Terech picked up Saline’s final two points of the game with 0:15 seconds left.
When the final buzzer went off, Saline had lost 57-49.
Coach Fosdick pulled the three seniors in the game with 0:12 seconds left. To a large applause from the Saline faithful, Turner, Wenning and Heisler walked off the court for the final time as a Hornet, hugged by their coach as they reached the bench.
It was a scene that has repeated before. We saw the pain of defeat on the face of Matt Rosati in 2016. We saw it on the faces of Ryan Foley and Jake Finkbeiner in 2017.
And we saw it again Friday night. The faces of Turner and Wenning, co-captains of this year’s team, showed the bitter disappointment of losing the last game of their high school career. Adam Heisler, who did not get much playing time last season but played a much more prominent role in this year’s team, walked off the court, head down, saying nothing.
For all three of these young men, their faces showed everyone that they had wanted to win.
“I thought we started really well,” said Saline Head Coach Jake Fosdick. “We managed all of the noise, hype and talking at the start of the game and got into our game.”
Fosdick noted that Belleville’s increased defensive pressure caused some problems at the start of the second quarter.
“We didn’t handle the pressure very well at the start of the second quarter. We committed turnovers and our screens didn’t get people free,” he said.
Fosdick doesn’t put much stock on “moral victories,” but he noted the team made progress. The team finished with a 13-10 record and a trip to the district championship.
“It is important for the program that we got to the district finals this year,” Fosdick continued. “The younger players now have the experience of playing in a game like this. We will build off of this and continue to grow the program.”
Fosdick had praise for his players.
“What can you say about Turner? He plays with everything he’s got. He has played in every varsity game I have coached,” he said. ““Erik (Wenning) was not Foley or Finkbeiner, last year’s co-captains. He had to find his leadership style and he has. He has been a tremendous leader this season. Adam (Heisler) didn’t get a lot of playing time last year. But he came back, worked hard and made major contributions to the team this year,” Fosdick said. “Over the last four games or so, he scored some points and grabbed critical rebounds.”
So, the 2017-18 season is in the books. Looking forward to next year, the team returns guards Arico and Yaklich, Thunder and Lightning. They will return forwards Ethan Friedrichsen and Connor Terech. Ryan Koch and Peter Jacobsen will be returning, and both got substantial playing time this season. And there is a talented group of sophomores who will be trying out for the team next year.
And as the poet says, hope springs eternal.
And for the last time this season, here are the three stars of the game.
SALINE POST THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Emmett Turner, Erik Wenning, Adam Heisler, Zach Drevno, Jayden Belskus
2nd Star: Trevor “Thunder” Arico & Griffin “Lightning” Yaklich
3rd Star: Ryan Koch, Jamesen Simion, Peter Jacobsen, Connor Terech, Lucas Ebert,
Ryan Grill, Ethan Friedrichsen