By Luke Sloan
SALINE – The Hornets got a key bounce back win tonight, defeating the Hartland Eagles 47-37 in a defensive struggle.
The defensive battle started early, with the famed Hornet zone and Hartland’s defense both getting off to hot starts. With offense at a premium, the Hornets held a narrow 10-7 lead after the first quarter of play. The slow pace of play and offensive scarcity continued into the second quarter, as the Hornets clutched a 22-18 lead going into halftime.
“Hartland is a very low scoring team, they play similar to us in that we both are half court defense oriented,” Saline coach Jake Fosdick said of the defensive stalemate. “They also had a big center in Jason Gigliotti, who slowed the pace of play. It is key to maximize possessions in this type of game.”
The gridlock continued out of the halftime locker room until midway through the third quarter, when the Hornets finally found the spark they had been looking for. Justin Zylstra nailed a three pointer and two Hornet steals led to two Ryan Foley layups capping a 7-0 run to end the third quarter.
“We just focused on grinding out stops on the defensive end, that eventually led to buckets on the other side of the floor.”
Taking a 32-24 lead into the last quarter of play the Hornets never looked back, scoring 15 points in the fourth to take home the win by a score of 47-37.
Jake Finkbeiner led all Hornet starters with 11 points, Justin Zylstra also pitched in, scoring 7 points. The Hornets bench played an important role in tonight’s victory, with many bench players stepping up and playing quality minutes in place of Hornet starters, who were deep in foul trouble. Seniors Sean Millspaugh and Nate Gresser where among these players.
Another productive bench player, Sophomore Connor Terech, was tasked with guarding the 6’8” Jason Gigliotti, filling in for foul stricken big men Emmett Turner and Calder Pellerin. Terech did not back down, battling Gigliotti hard in the paint and putting up 9 points. After the game Coach Fosdick was quick to praise his young big man.
“Connor came into a tough situation and did a great job battling a player way bigger than him. The game is never too big for him, his moment came tonight and he didn’t back down.”
Saline will now look to carry this momentum into Friday night’s conference showdown, when the Hornets hit the road for their second clash against conference rival Ann Arbor Skyline. Like the previous matchup of these two frontrunners, this upcoming contest is expected to be the premier Friday game in the Ann Arbor area. Despite the build up, the Hornets are once again maintaining their rewarding workmanlike approach.
“Friday’s game is a big game because it’s our next game and we treat every game like a championship. We try our best to keep the same routine every week and enjoy the process of getting better.”
Deterred by costly live ball turnovers and the inability to finish out the game, Saline fell to the Eagles 59-48 in the first matchup. It was a disappointing loss for the Hornets, but it was also one that further fueled Saline’s commitment to hard work and dedication. The Hornets have had this rematch circled on their calendar and know what they must do for their chance at redemption.
“Skyline is dangerous in transition, we are focused on taking care of the ball and working on their press,” Fosdick said regarding the Hornets preparation. “We also plan on finishing the game, in the first game we had them in the first half but gave them the lead and the win in the second half. On defense we have to guard the perimeter and take away their shooters, not to mention keeping one of the best players in the conference, Brandon Wade, out of the lane.”
“This game is a huge challenge, but it is what we want. We are not afraid of anybody, we have beat them before and we have no problem beating them again.”