After racing out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter Tuesday, everything looked pretty rosy for the host Salem Rocks.
Things did not come so easy the rest of the night against Plymouth in the opening game of the 2015-16 varsity girls basketball season for both teams, although the Rocks hung on for a 29-23 non-division victory.
Salem also likely lost senior wing guard Zoe Talley for an extended period, possibly the remainder of the season.
Talley, who grabbed eight rebounds, suffered an apparent Achilles heel injury late in the third quarter.
“It’s pretty big, she’s a senior leader for us,” Rocks head coach Lindsay Klemmer said. “This really, really hurts us. The girls were all pretty much in tears on the bench when I came back over and told them.
“She’s a big loss. … This is one of those things that I just told the girls, we now need to dedicate our season to her.”
Just a minute or two before the injury, Talley had knocked down a short jumper from the paint to pad Salem’s lead to 22-13. The field goal was her only one of the night.
With Talley out of action, the Rocks needed a lift in order to hold off the pesky Wildcats — who hung tough despite having a tough night shooting, particularly from beyond the 3-point line.
That boost came from Salem freshman Lyniah Wilson, who wouldn’t be denied in the offensive zone. She scored five points and pulled down four rebounds off the bench.
“Yeah, absolutely, we did everything for Zoe,” said Wilson, about her efforts to spark the Rocks. “Especially since I really look up to her, I had to get back at it for her.”
Klemmer liked what she saw from Wilson, although she obviously wished the extra playing time wasn’t because of a key injury.
“She really stepped up for us,” Klemmer said. “We told her we needed her to be strong and be an inside presence, and that’s what she did.
“She owns the boards offensively and defensively. She’s just a workhorse.”
Wilson asserted herself early in the fourth quarter, moments after Plymouth senior guard Cassidy Lewis (11 points, six rebounds) connected on a trey from beyond the top of the arc to make it a 22-16 game.
The younger sister of former Salem stalwart and current Schoolcraft College player Jamyra Wilson went strong to the rim for a banker and drew a foul. She made the free throw to make it a 3-point play and give the Rocks a 25-16 advantage with 5:20 left.
A minute later, Wilson came up with a couple offensive rebounds to keep a Salem flurry going.
“If I had to pinpoint somebody that changed the game for us it was her, and she’s a freshman,” Klemmer added. “She gave us exactly what we needed off the bench, which is some energy, some positivity and some rebounding which we were struggling with too.”
Neither team would score for the next two minutes, but Plymouth — who had trailed 12-4 after one quarter, 19-9 at halftime and 22-13 after three — got to within 25-21 when Lewis tallied a layup.
Plymouth subsequently forced a turnover and had a chance to get to within two points with about two minutes remaining, only to be called for traveling.
Such self-inflicted wounds were a common occurrence throughout the sloppily played contest, not to mention plenty of missed scoring opportunities.
In the late stages of the first half, for example, the Wildcats went 0-4 in triple tries.
Some of it was bad luck. On a couple of those attempts, the basketball went in and out of the cylinder.
“It was ugly, for sure,” Plymouth first-year head coach Ryan Ballard said. “We just couldn’t get the ball to go into the basket tonight. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.
“I loved our kids effort, they played really hard. We’re going to take this loss and learn from it, grow from it, look at the tape and get better.”
The Wildcats had some positives, such as the all-around play of Lewis and the efforts of senior guard Jordyn Chouinard and senior forward Elise Wehmer (six rebounds).
“All the kids just battled,” Ballard noted. “I loved the way Jordyn Chouinard played, she played really, really hard. You can’t coach effort like that. She kept us in it with her relentless energy.
“And Elise Wehmer is one of our gritty kids.”
Deserved to start
Leading the Rocks with 10 points was sophomore Jala Petree, who started the game next to sisters Lasha (sophomore) and freshman Mahrianna.
The Petrees opened strong, with Jala and Lasha scoring 11 of Salem’s 12 points in the first. Lasha Petree finished with six points and a team-leading 11 rebounds; Mahrianna Petree scored her first varsity point on a late free throw.
Chipping in with six rebounds along with three points for the Rocks was junior Jayna Lenders.
Also bringing some spunk off the bench was junior Darby Scott. Adding two points was senior Leah Moss.
According to Klemmer, the youngest Petree deserved the opportunity to start.
“Mahri specifically has definitely worked her way into a starting spot as a freshman, just with her work ethic,” Klemmer said. “She has a lot to learn, but she’s got a huge upside.
“And when you put her with her other two sisters who can score, drive and do a little bit of everything, it’s hard to keep them all off the floor because they do so much as a trio.”
MARIAN 40, CANTON 36: The visiting Chiefs led 31-25 after three quarters, but put the Mustangs on the free-throw line too many times down the stretch, ultimally falling in their season opener.
“We certainly put them at the line way too much,” said Canton head coach Rob Heitmeyer, about Bloomfield Hills Marian making 16 of 26 attempts from the charity stripe. The Chiefs made just seven of 14 tries.
Heitmeyer also noted 17 turnovers by his team, along with getting outrebounded on the offensive glass as factors in the loss.
Leading the Chiefs with 12 points was Brianna Finn, with Erin Hult and Madison Archibald tallying 11 and seven points, respectively.