Bree Salenbien’s late basket give Lenawee Christian a 46-44 victory in OT over Sacred Heart in D semifinal
Grand Rapids – Bree Salenbien knew she needed a fall back plan which couldn’t afford to fail.
After missing three of her four free throw attempts, the Adrian Lenawee Christian freshman forward was looking for an open shot close to the basket as time expired in Thursday’s Class D semifinal at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
The plan worked to perfection as Salenbien found a sliver of space and hit a clutch off-balance jumper with two seconds left to give the Cougars a wild 46-44 overtime victory over top-ranked Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.
Salenbien, who finished with 16 points, said she had no intention of looking to draw a foul as the clock wound down.
"I knew I had to get to the basket because my free throws weren’t falling," she said. "I knew we would make it out."
The win, which included 11 lead changes and 13 ties, sends Lenawee Christian (25-1) into Saturday’s 10 a.m. final against Chassell (26-1), a 55-51 winner over Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Sacred Heart (25-1) led 44-42 with 3:32 left, but a turnover gave the Cougars the ball and Dani Salenbien hit two three throws with 1:05 left to tie the game.
The one free throw Salenbien did make with 12.9 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 42-42.
First-year Lenawee Christian coach and Bree Salenbien’s father, Jamie Salenbien, said his young Cougars club held together well down the stretch. The Cougars start three sophomores and a freshman, and their only senior, Lauren Gordon, played just two minutes. Sacred Heart, bidding to play in its third state final in five years, featured four senior starters.
"Their parents are competitive and they instill a competitive nature," coach Salenbien said. "All year long they’ve been (in competitive) games. We played a tough schedule that prepared us for this."
Bree’s sister, Dan, a sophomore, had 11 points and Bree added eight rebounds, six steals, four assists and three blocks.
Sophia Ruggles finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks for Sacred Heart.
"The whole team showed who we were, not just me," Bree Salenbien said. "We battled in so many games. The one loss (41-40 against Monroe) hurt us but we didn’t want to feel like that again."
Sacred Heart coach Damon Brown said the teams, had they played 10 times, would likely win five apiece.
"It was a great high school basketball game; this is what the state tournament is all about. You leave it all on the floor," he said. "We knew it would be a defensive battle and both teams left it all on the floor. It was just two great teams."
Lenawee Christian, ranked No. 4, will play a torrid Chassell club, ranked No. 7, which has won 26 straight games since a 62-58 loss to L’Anse on opening night. A tiny community about eight miles southeast of Houghton, Chassell wiped out an eight-point second quarter deficit and survived a 13-0 run to beat Lakes.
A 3-pointer by the Panthers’ Milly Allen snapped a 42-42 tie with 6:35 left in the game and Chassell never trailed again. Waterford’s Brooklyn Robak hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to cut a five-point deficit to 52-51, but Allen hit the front end of three one-and-ones in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
Allen finished with 17 points, Sydney Danison 15, Jenna Pietila 11 and Meg Hokenson 10 as Chassell survived 36 turnovers with a 36-25 rebounding edge and shot 50 percent (22-44) from the field.
The outstanding senior forward duo of Tiffany Senerius and Kayla Sanders scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, for the Lakers (19-5). Sanders added 10 rebounds and four steals.
"The first half was the first time we’ve been on the big stage," Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said. "We talked in the locker room at the half that we needed to take care of the ball."
Hainault said she would likely spend a busy night assembling a scouting report on Lenawee Christian.
"I know absolutely nothing about them," she said. "We’ll spend time researching and looking at film. It’ll be a busy night and day getting ready."