game of the week: Jibreel Hussein powers late Pioneer run in 58-53 win over Saline
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Even at three-quarters of his normal ability, Pioneer forward Jibreel Hussein can put a game away.
After Saline cut the deficit to two points with 3:23 left Friday night, Hussein went on a personal 7-0 scoring run, providing the defense as well, over the next minute to help put the game away in a 58-53 win.
Game of the Week Coverage: Boxscore | Photo Gallery | Saline struggles inside despite dangerous weapon in loss to Pioneer | Friday night roundup
Following a make to extend his team’s lead to five, Hussein recorded a block on the other end, then hit a 3-pointer. On the Hornets’ next possession, he recorded a steal, and scored a basket on the other end, prompting a stunned Saline team to take a timeout.
After a pair of Tevis Robinson buckets, Pioneer had completed an 11-2 run.
“We just had to finish the game in the fourth quarter,” Hussein said. “I saw them coming back on a run, and I just knew I had to do something to help out the team.”
Saline hit two late 3-pointers to get as close as three points in the final minute, but Pioneer point guard Duane Simpson-Redmond hit two free throws with seconds left to ice the game.
Friday marked the second time this week Hussein’s late heroics have helped the Pioneers pull out a close win. Tuesday at Skyline, he hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to put his team ahead.
In the opening minute of that game, Hussein suffered a shin injury, one that he said kept him at about 75 percent for Friday’s game.
“I just focused on getting the win,” Hussein said.
Hussein finished with a game-high 20 points, plus six steals, two blocks and four rebounds, followed by Robinson with 12 and Aedan York with 10. Michael Hendrickson scored 16 points to lead Saline, while Reece Dils had 15 and Max Recknagel had 10.
With the win, Pioneer (10-3) stayed in the SEC Red hunt with a 5-1 record, a game behind Temperance Bedford. Saline fell to 7-6 and 1-5 in the league.
The late Pioneer run helped shake a pesky Saline team that never led after the opening minutes, but hung around until the end.
Saline made 3’s on two of its first four possessions to take an early lead, but scored only one more basket the rest of the quarter. Pioneer went on an 11-2 run to take the lead after one quarter.
Saline stayed in the game primarily due to its shooting from deep, never falling behind by more than 12. The team hit seven 3’s, four from Dils and three from Hendrickson.
The Pioneers still had a chance to put the game away, up eight early in the third, before turning the ball over on four of five possessions.
“I thought that really hurt us, and it gave Saline a chance to get back into the game,” Pioneer coach Rex Stanczak said.
But in the end, Saline’s turnovers hurt the most, as the Hornets committed 27 of them, compared to 14 for Pioneer. Saline coach Eric Williams said that and offensive rebounding were keys to the game.
“We’re obviously going to have turnovers, but if we limit them, if we do a much better job of boxing out, this could be a much different game,” Williams said.
For Pioneer, even after playing three tight games that came down to the end, the schedule doesn't look to get any easier. For its Tuesday crossover, the Pioneers drew two-time defending SEC White champs Ypsilanti, which is unbeaten in the SEC White play this year.
“If we want to have a chance to win the league, we’ve got to go to Ypsi and beat them,” Stanczak said. “We’re capable.”