By Luke Sloan
YPSILANTI- Overcoming a major mental hurdle, the Saline men’s basketball team defeated the Monroe Trojans 57-40 to advance to the District Finals. The Hornets never trailed in the contest, beating the Trojans for the third time this season.
“It’s hard to play a team twice and have to battle them for a third time,” said Saline head coach Jake Fosdick. “It was a huge challenge to play knowing about the pressure that was ahead of us. I give Monroe a lot of credit, they played with house money, they had nothing to lose. They were a tough opponent.”
Saline jumped out to a quick 6-0 run to force a Monroe timeout and take command early, leading 11-8 after one quarter of play. The Hornets opened the second on a 9-2 run to grab a comfortable 30-16 lead heading into the half. Griffin Yaklich led his team with 11 first half points.
The third would tighten up, with Monroe winning the quarter by a slight 13-12 margin. Saline still maintained control though, leading 42-29 after three. All focus was lost for the Trojans in the final quarter, as Seniors Christopher Bitz and Cole Chappell both fouled out, making early exits. Taking advantage of this, the Hornets won the fourth 15-11 and took home a 17 point victory, 57-40.
“Tonight’s game was long and tough,” said Fosdick. “But getting to play for a district championship is the best cure for that. We’re really looking forward to this opportunity.”
Griffin Yaklich led all scorers with his 18 points. Trevor Arico and Adam Heisler also pitched in, scoring 12 and 8 points, respectively. Monroe was led by Senior guard Jonathan McNamee, who put up 11 points.
The victory improves Saline’s overall record to 13-9 while their conference record still remains at 3-7. Next up for the Hornets will be a matchup with the Belleville Tigers in the District finals. The Tigers defeated the Ypsilanti Grizzlies 60-52 to make the final, they are led by Michigan State signees Gabe Brown (basketball) and Davion Williams (football).
This upcoming contest will be one of the most meaningful games in recent Saline basketball history, as the relentless Hornets look to continue their March run and win a district title. Following the game Fosdick reflected on the community his team plays for, praising the supportive fans and urging them to pack the Lincoln gym for Friday’s matchup. This scrappy team has plenty of Hornet magic left in them.
“We are ready to play in an excited gym, this is another opportunity to prove that we can play in a tough environment”, said Fosdick. “Belleville is an unbelievable opponent, they won their conference and have great athletes. But we don’t fear anybody, we’re going to fight, we are excited to play in these types of games.”