By Luke Sloan
ANN ARBOR – The Saline boys basketball team fell to the Ann Arbor Skyline Eagles 51-46 in a showdown for the top spot in the SEC red division.
Skyline, led by Juniors Brandon Wade and Jack Ammerman, held an 11-7 lead after the first quarter of play. The Hornets then rallied back with a 9-0 run to start the second quarter, forcing a timeout from Skyline head coach Mike Lovelace. With Saline gripping a slim 16-11 lead, the Eagles then responded with a run of their own, going on a 13-2 tear to finish the second quarter. After one half of intriguing basketball the Hornets trailed Skyline 24-18.
Looking for redemption, the Hornets burst out of the halftime locker room with an incredible seven minute stretch of basketball, outscoring the Eagles 19-5 and electrifying the visiting Hornet fans. Emmett Turner’s 7 points and Calder Pellerin’s three made 3 pointers led the scoring charge for Saline. On the defensive end, the Hornets tenacious 2-3 zone halted the dangerous Skyline scoring attack. With 58 seconds to go in the third Saline commanded a 37-29 lead over the rival Eagles.
Continuing the theme of explosive scoring runs, Skyline countered, going on an 8-0 run to tie the contest at 37 heading into a much anticipated fourth quarter. The Hornets, in control of their own destiny in the conference, entered one of the biggest quarters of the season.
As the fourth quarter began the tide turned once more, but not in the Hornets favor. Skyline’s scoring drive continued, led by Brandon Wade and his 8 fourth quarter points. The Eagles ran the clock, forcing Saline to ditch their ferocious zone in favor of man defense. The Hornets offense sputtered, failing to retain the rhythm and momentum gained in the third quarter scoring barrage. Scoring leader Emmett Turner picked up his fourth foul, limiting his playing time and offensive influence.
Skyline was triumphant in a hard fought battle, taking home the fourth quarter 14-9, the game 51-46, and the SEC red division crown for the 2016-2017 season.
Emmett Turner’s dominating 24 point performance led all scorers. Calder Pellerin pitched in with 14 points on the strength of four made 3 pointers. Justin Zylstra also assisted with 6 points on two huge three point baskets. For the opposing Eagles, Brandon Wade finished with 18 points while Jack Ammerman scored 17 points.
Following the game Saline head coach Jake Fosdick displayed pride in his team’s effort and saluted the Eagles winning achievement.
“With this atmosphere and how we finished against them last time I was very proud of how we battled tonight.”
“Last time it didn’t come down to a basketball game, it came down to us turning the ball over and not playing well on the boards. We turned the ball over tonight but Skyline made shots and deserved to win, they are a very good basketball team.”
Despite the unfavorable outcome, Fosdick acknowledged the growth Saline basketball has made, with the program going from three wins in the 2015 season, to twelve wins his first year, to playing in a conference championship game this year.
“As competitors we all want to win, not winning the conference hurts, but two years ago we weren’t even close to this kind of game. To play in a championship game was great and needed for this program, but we expect to win championship games.”
No matter the result, the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of the Hornets will prevail on their way to future success.
“The really cool part about high school basketball is that we will get another shot at them. If we can keep working and improving over these next two weeks we can get another good shot at Skyline, Huron, and Pioneer. We are going to battle.”
The loss drops Saline’s overall record to 13-5 and their conference record to 6-3. The Hornets will next take the floor when they take on the Ann Arbor Huron River Rats at the River Dome for one of the last regular season games of the year.
Peering even further into the future, The Hornets will be playing meaningful basketball in the month of March, starting with the district opener against Ann Arbor Huron. Heading into the substantial games of March, coach Fosdick and his team are eager to unleash their gritty style of play on future opponents.
“I don’t think we are a very fun team to play in March, we are not a fun team to prepare for, we definitely look forward to building on that.”