“It’s always to early to quit” – Jim Rome
Saline High School head boys basketball coach, Klint Robinson, has been preaching this to his teams for years but sometimes you need an example like what took place Saturday evening to get your point across.
You can rest assured that his 2023 edition of Bobcats won’t soon forget the words of wisdom.
Not after Saline rallied from a 11 point deficit entering the 4th quarter to grab a thrilling 73-69 double overtime victory over Choudrant and claim the championship of the Calvin Tournament.
For nearly three and half quarters Saline was having major trouble stopping the strong Aggie attack. Nothing seemed to work, so when the score got to be 50-40 with just a little over six minutes remaining in the game, Robinson turned to an old stand by – full court pressure man-to-man defense.
“My philosophy is to constantly pressure the ball and force bad decisions. Not necessarily try to take it away from the guy,” said Robinson.
Few teach it as well or have as good result over the years but Robinson was hesitant to unveil his traditional “ace in the hole.”
“We really haven’t been working on our man pressure defense a lot in practice,” said Robinson, explaining why he waited so long to employ the defensive scheme. “It helps to have a group of guys that know the concept and have a never give up attitude.”
Apparently the Bobcats didn’t need a lot of work as they immediately started chipping away at the lead as the intense pressure applied started to force turnovers. With just under a minute left Saline finally had climbed all the way back, knotting the score at 55 apiece.
It actually looked like Saline would complete the comeback and win the game in regulation time when Trent Ledbetter drove the lane and nailed a floater as the horn sounded. It wasn’t to be though as he was called for a highly questionable offensive foul when he drifted into a Choudrant defender well after the shot was away.
Nevertheless, Saline was not to be denied as their “team” concept on offense kept Choudrant guessing who would take a shot. Early on it was Eli Ferguson (12 points) who was doing the damage. In the fourth quarter, Javon Dailey (16 points), Trent Ledbetter (14 points), and Jer’Courtney Loyd (14 points) all scored five each and in the second overtime Maddox Williams tallied five of his 15 points in the contest, including a decisive driving layup with just seven seconds left to give Saline the final cushion.
Saline, which improved to 3-3 on the early season, reached the finals by dispatching of tourney host Calvin by a 57-40 margin while Choudrant advanced by nipping Weston 58-54.
Choudrant scoring: Jones 34, Stevens 8, Pye 8, Cage 6, Carrico 6, Soto 6