Grand Rapids — Adrian Lenawee Christian repeated as girls basketball state champion Saturday morning at Van Noord Arena, defeating St. Ignace, 48-46, in the Division 4 title game.
Lenawee Christian (26-2), ranked No. 11 in The News Super 20 poll, had to know it was in for a battle in the opening quarter when No. 10 St. Ignace (27-1) forced 10 turnovers with its fullcourt pressure to take a 17-16 advantage, leading by as many as seven.
But Lenawee Christian 6-foot-2 sophomore standout Bree Salenbien showed why she already has Division I offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana, helping lead the comeback with help from her older sister, Dani Salenbien.
Bree Salenbien had to work for every one of her 17 points while being guarded by Madison Olsen, who received help from her teammates, including fellow 6-foot senior Emily Coveyou.
It was Dani Salenbien who scored all eight of her team’s points, including two 3-pointers, during an 8-5 run to give Lenawee Christian a 32-30 halftime lead.
After the high-scoring first half, points were hard to come by the final two quarters with Lenawee Christian limiting St. Ignace to 5-of-26 shooting, including 0-for-10 from 3-point range.
“I’m just very, very proud with the gutted-out performance that they had,” said Lenawee Christian coach Jamie Salenbien, father of Bree and Dani. “We didn’t rebound the ball especially well at times which hurt us, them getting two shots at the basket is not fun to watch, but when we needed to we made big stops, we had big rebounds and we made big plays.
“Everybody has accepted their role in quite frankly an era where no one wants to share, and these girls are all about sharing, commitment, trust, love, sacrifice and the faith and it’s carried us through the year.”
Bree Salenbien, who came in averaging 23.6 points and nine rebounds, scored her 17 on 3-of-14 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out six assists.
“I was kind of out of it today which kind of hurt my team, but they all stepped up and I’m just thankful for that,” she said. “They (St. Ignace) just kind of pressured me and did a good job of it.”
Dani Salenbien, who has an offer from Wayne State, scored a game-high 19 on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-8 on 3-pointers. She had eight turnovers, but only two in the second half when Lenawee Christian did a much better job of handling the pressure, turning it over just six times total.
“They are very well coached, have very skilled athletes with very competitive kids,” Jamie Salenbien said of St. Ignace. “They kept fighting and I thought it was a great game, just back and forth.
"I just kept telling the girls that you’ve taken punches, now give some.”
Lenawee Christian closed out the win without making a field goal during the fourth quarter, cashing in at the line where it was 10-of-12 on free throws, including 5-of-6 from Bree Salenbien and 4-of-4 from Dani Salenbien.
St. Ignace was making its first title-game appearance since winning the Class D state championship in 2015. And 20th-year coach Dorene Ingalls was proud of her team’s defensive effort.
“I thought it was a great game, went back and forth and I was proud of our kids,” Ingalls said. “Even though we couldn’t make shots, they kept at it and kept fighting and kept fighting.
"That’s a great team (Lenawee Christian) and we just fell a little short.”
Sophomore guard Hallie Marshall was a force defensively from the opening tip, getting multiple steals from St. Ignace’s press when it forced 10 first-quarter turnovers.
Coveyou, who averages 22.9 points and 10.2 rebounds, had 17 points and eight rebounds for St. Ignace, which limited Lenawee Christian to 33-percent shooting.
Sophomore guard Emmalee Hart took three charges.