By Luke Sloan
ANN ARBOR – The Saline Hornets men’s basketball team fell to the Ann Arbor Huron River Rats 62-56 in a highly competitive district matchup.
The Hornets and River Rats matched wits in the first quarter of play, with each squad exchanging scores in evenly matched competition. Huron came out on top of the first quarter clash, leading the Hornets 16-14. This theme would continue into the second, and after one tight half of basketball the River Rats led the Hornets 26-24.
“Huron came out switching man to man, which for us was good, we got the mismatches we wanted,” Saline head coach Jake Fosdick said regarding his team’s first half play. “Connor (Terech) got some switches and Emmett (Turner) was slipping and getting buckets off switches. We executed very well, we went into halftime very happy, especially being down two players in foul trouble.”
The deadlock would come to an abrupt end in the third quarter, as Huron finished the quarter on a 9-0 run to win the quarter 16-9. With the season on the line, Saline entered a critical fourth quarter trailing the River Rats 42-33.
“We missed some easy ones in the third,” said Fosdick. “Huron made some tough shots, we made some poor turnovers against the pressure, which has been a problem for us the last couple of games. We let them get in transition, they made a run and we had to start gambling.”
Huron extended their dominance into the fourth, leading the Hornets 57-43 with 1:14 to go in the final quarter of action. Down 14 in the waning moments of the quarter, the season looked all but over for the Hornets. With their season in the balance, Saline, as they have done many times before, relentlessly responded to the challenge.
Powered by Junior forward Emmett Turner, the Hornets went on a 9-0 scoring tear to trim the deficit to five. Behind 57-52 with 32.6 seconds to play in a brand new ballgame, Saline continued to battle. After two made free throws from Huron’s Lewis Willis, Saline rushed the ball down the floor, leading to an Emmett Turner bucket, making the score 59-52. Following an intentional foul, Alec Anderson stepped to the line for the River Rats, splitting a pair of free throws to increase the Huron lead, 60-54. Once again the Hornets rushed the ball down court, resulting in a foul and two free throw makes from Turner to bring Saline within four, 60-56. This was the closest the Hornets would get, as Huron iced the game at the stripe to end the valiant comeback effort and take home victory by a final score of 62-56.
“The word we use the most around our program is relentless,” Fosdick said, describing the Hornets effort. “It is the word that describes us. We play the same if we are up ten, down ten, or playing in a tie game. They showed the definition of our program tonight. Obviously we would like to be up ten, but the fight they showed was what I’ve seen for the past five years, there’s not a better group to build the program around than them.”
“Late in the game a lot of teams don’t like to foul, we wanted to get our two points and then set up our press,” said Fosdick. “If the defense did come in we would kick the ball out, Emmett just decided to take it himself in the end, Emmett shows up in the biggest games, he dominated tonight. We got to the free throw line which helped us setup the press. We were a shot or two away from scaring some people. The fight was unreal tonight.”
Emmett Turner’s star performance consisted of leading all Hornet scorers with 19 points and dominating the glass with 14 rebounds. Calder Pellerin and Jake Finkbeiner added with 11 and 8 points, respectively. As he has done countless times this season, Sophomore forward Connor Terech had an impressive game off the bench, filling in nicely for foul stricken Emmett Turner with 6 points.
“Connor has improved so much this year,” said Fosdick. “Throughout the year he has gotten so much more comfortable, he’s gotten so much more understanding of the game. He’s set himself up for a great future.”
In the final few seconds of the contest coach Fosdick honored his outstanding Seniors one final time, making wholesale substitutions to give fans and parents a chance to cheer their Seniors off the court. Following the game Fosdick was quick to acknowledge his passionate bond with this impactful class.
“I love these seniors, I would go to their practices and put them through drills when they were on the eighth grade travel team with Mr. Foley, I got to know them very well early in their lives,” Fosdick said. “As they made their way up you could tell they were going to be a good class. They were on my junior varsity team and then on my varsity team, they were my first real class. They mean the world to me, everything they do is relentless. They have set the standard for our program.”
This district tournament loss wraps up the Hornet’s breakout season, one that has seen a nine game winning streak, a win over Ann Arbor Huron for the first time in ten years, and the chance at a conference title. The Hornets finish the season with an overall record of 13-8 and a conference record of 6-4.
“In Saline you play to win championships and we didn’t get a championship, but we are progressing towards it,” said Fosdick. “We got better from last year, now it’s on to finding another way to keep getting better.”