Salem girls hoops team pulls off stunning upset of No. 5-ranked Wayne
Team Overlooked — better known as the Salem girls basketball team — is looking down at every other team in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association after Thursday night’s championship game.
Picked to finish fifth (out of six teams) in the West Division in the pre-season coaches’ poll, the Rocks shocked the world, outlasting state-ranked and unbeaten Wayne Memorial 67-64 in an overtime thriller that unfolded in the Northville High School gymnasium.
The unheralded Rocks led by as many as 17 with six minutes left in the game before the Zebras stormed back to force OT with a 27-point fourth quarter.
Both teams had chances to win in regulation, but a Salem player missed two free throws with 1.3 seconds left and a Wayne player misfired on two freebies with three-tenths of a second left, forcing the four-minute overtime.
There were multiple heroes for the Rocks, but the game-winner was scored by junior reserve Abby Resovsky, who — playing in crunch time largely because two Rock starters had fouled out in regulation — converted a driving layup with 11 seconds remaining in overtime to put Salem ahead 66-64.
Wayne’s Mayla Ham launched a potential game-winning three-point shot with two seconds to play, but the ball hit nothing but air and bounced out of bounds.
Salem’s Shahd Bakkar swished a free throw with less than a second left to cap the scoring as the Zebras failed to get a final shot off.
“The key for us was when — even though they made that run in the fourth quarter and forced overtime — we didn’t hang our heads, we didn’t get dejected,” said second-year Salem Head Coach Rod Wells. “In our huddle right before overtime, they all had the eye of the tiger. That’s when I knew we were OK.”
Junior Madison Morson used Wayne’s full-court pressure to her advantage, finding space on the way to netting a game-high 33 points. Senior Shahd Bakkar, who swished one 30-foot trey to offset a Wayne run, scored 25 points.
Resovsky scored just four, but her last bucket was super-significant.
“That was such an amazing experience,” Resovsky said. “I didn’t expect to get the ball in that situation, but when I saw an opportunity to score, I took it and it worked out in the end.
“Going into the game, Coach Wells just told us to play Salem basketball, play Salem basketball — and that’s what we did. There were a few times we got down, but we kept our composure and built each other back up.”
Bring on the pressure
Morson and Bakkar formed a formidable one-two punch for the winners, handling the ball expertly against intense pressure and delivering clutch shots at key stretches of the game. The duo’s efforts were especially necessary when their two starting teammates — seniors Ashley Kopacko and Isabell Kulick — fouled out in the second half.
“I think this win proves that we have the guts it takes to be a champion,” Morson said. “We knew we had the talent to compete before Coach Wells was here, but he’s the once to gave us the push to believe that we were capable of going out and doing what we did tonight.
“I think a lot of people are going to be shocked when they see this score tonight because Wayne is known for winning, but we showed otherwise tonight. This is crazy and I am so proud of my teammates. One of our six C’s is composure and that’s what kept us in the game. We could have given up at any point in the game — especially when they made that run in the fourth quarter — but we didn’t.”
Eight-year drought ends
The KLAA title is the Rocks’ first girls hoops championship of any kind since 2015.
Bakkar is a four-year varsity player who has persevered through the program’s not-so-successful recent past — which made her savor Thursday’s triumph even more.
“We won two games my freshman year, one game my junior year,” she reflected. “If someone would have told me two years ago we’d be standing where we are now, I’d have laughed in their face. This means the world to me.”
Bakkar said Wells has been a guiding light for the program.
“Coach Rod doesn’t treat us as just players, he treats us as humans and as students,” Bakkar said. “And we appreciate him for that.”