Grand Rapids — Bree Salenbien went crashing to the court in the final minute of the first quarter, but returned to lead Adrian Lenawee Christian to its first state championship with a 57-36 victory over Chassell in the Class D title game Saturday morning at Van Noord Arena.
Salenbien, a 6-foot-2 freshman, played like a senior leader in playing well at both ends of the court, finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Oh, and Salenbien, who already has offers from Xavier and Minnesota, had a lot of help with three of her teammates joining in double figures, including sophomore guards Libby Miller (11 points) and Dani Salenbien (10 points, six assists, five steals) and Caitlin Anderson (10 points, seven rebounds).
Salenbien showed her skills early, making a steal, then going the length of the court with a crossover dribble and reverse layup for a 4-0 lead.
Lenawee Christian (26-1) forced eight turnovers in the first eight minutes, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and owning a 17-12 advantage after the opening quarter. It never trailed but certainly was threatened.
Chassell (26-2), which made the nine-hour trip from the Upper Peninsula., outscored Lenawee Christian 11-7 during the second quarter to pull within a single point at halftime on Milly Allen’s 3-pointer in the final minute.
But, Lenawee Christian regrouped and dominated the third quarter with Bree Salenbien leading the way, scoring inside for a 31-25 edge, then making a 3-pointer for a 45-32 cushion.
Lenawee Christian got second and third-chance opportunities during the pivotal third quarter and cashed in with 3-pointers from Miller and Bree Salenbien.
Lenawee Christian held a 33-27 rebounding advantage and a 17-6 edge in second-chance points.
So, was Salenbien concerned about her injury?
“I twisted my ankle, but my trainer just taped it up,” Salenbien said.
With Salenbien out for a few minutes and Dani Salenbien on the bench with three fouls for much of the second quarter, Lenawee Christian first-year coach Jamie Salenbien — Bree and Dani’s father — was thrilled to see multiple other players step up.
“It was hard to watch because we needed her (Dani) out there to manage things for us since she’s the floor general in a lot of ways, but the good thing is Libby (Miller) stepped up, Caitlin (Anderson) stepped up, Brooke (Brinning) stepped up, Bree stepped up to handle that role and it was OK, it didn’t go terrible so you were happy with how it turned out, but when she got to come back she played a real good game.”
Yes, Dani Salenbien did, starting off with a 3-pointer to give Lenawee Christian a 29-25 lead, then stripping the ball away from a Chassell player and finding her sister for a 3-pointer for the 45-32 cushion.
The outcome left Chassell taking the long trip back with the runner-up trophy.
“I guess with the first time being here it’s a great thing, you couldn’t ask for anything more, except for maybe a win,” Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said. “It’s a hard thing, I mean these girls played with a lot of heart, they played with a lot of hustle and they did a lot of great things, but a lot of our mistakes cost us the game today.”
Jamie Salenbien felt Lenawee Christian did a good job of slowing down Chassell’s quick, little guards Allen and Jenna Pietila.
“Staying in stance and trying to contain those guards (was important) because they were fast, and we said keep them in front of you, switch screens and just work and take good angles because if they can get an angle on you and you’re in trouble,” Salenbien said.
Sydney Danison, a 6-1 senior, had 17 points and seven rebounds for Chassell. Allen scored 10.