A premature victory party nearly turned into a farewell party for the Saline Hornets Monday night.
The Hornets survived a 29-point fourth quarter from Lincoln Railsplitter to win 65-62 in MHSAA district action at Milan Monday.
Saline (8-12) faces Ypsilanti (15-3) Wednesday. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. The winner plays in the district championship game
After three quarters, the Hornets had reason to celebrate. Senior Matt Grasley had just entered the game and scored his second layup in 40 seconds. On the second one, he took the hard foul and made his shot to complete the three-point play for a 51-33 lead with five seconds to play in the fourth. Early in the fourth, after a couple free throws from Kevin Jacobsen and a layup by Michael Smutny, the Hornets led 55-38 with six minutes to play.
Lincoln went to work on chiseling the Hornets lead. With 9.7 seconds left, Saline led 63-62. Smutny was fouled and hit both free throws to re-establish the three-point lead with 8.3 seconds left.
Rather than allow the Railsplitters to the opportunity to shoot a three pointer, the Hornets fouled Dalauren Roberson as he ran up the court. He missed the first of one-and-one. The Railsplitters rebounded the ball and missed a two-point field goal as time expired for the Hornets win.
Smutny paced the Hornets with six points as the Hornets worked to a 10-8 lead after the first quarter.
Saline opened the second with a 6-0 run on layups by KC Borseth and Max Recknagel and a couple of free throws by Michael Hendrickson. After a three-pointer by Sherrod Motley-Dismuke, Saline went on a nine point run. Erik Jacobsen started it with a couple free throws. Then Stark and Borseth hit back-to-back three pointers. Stark added a point from the free throw line to make it 25-12.
Late in the half, however, the Railsplitters began having success pressing the Hornets into turnovers. Borseth and Hendrickson each added baskets late in the half. Saline led 29-21.
The third quarter was an adrenaline rush for the Hornets. It started with a layup by Smutny. After a pair of Railsplitter free throws, Borseth hit a three-pointer from the top of the arc. Smutny followed that up with a dunk that brought the Hornets from the bench. Hendrickson completed the 8-0 run with a three pointer from the corner and a 39-26 lead.
But every time the Hornets seemed ready to run away with the game, the Railsplitters found a way stay within reach.. Gabe Decton’s put back for two points was the only basket Saline had as the Railsplitters climbed back to within eight, 41-33.
But Saline closed out the third in dominating fashion. Hendrickson hit another trey. Jacobsen made a layup. The Hornets bench cheered when Grasley came into the game and made a layup late in the quarter. The bench erupted when Grasley made another, despite taking a hard foul, with just a few seconds left in the quarter.
Smutny led the Hornets with 16 points. Hendrickson and Borseth each scored 10 points. Stark scored nine points for Saline. Grasley and Kevin Moss each had five points. Jacobsen finished with four points. Gabe Decton, Joey Wooley and Max Recknagel each scored two points.