by John Ring
Brenna Saline got the news just a few weeks ago from Coach Evan Massey. It was good news. Real good news.
Saline and fellow freshman Claire Anderson had made the varsity team for the Galesburg Silver Streaks.
"I went home, told my parents and I was jumping up and down," said Saline. "It was pretty exciting for me."
Salines pretty exciting to watch. Right out of the gate, you notice one thing about Brenna Salineñ shes aggressive. Saline attacks the basket and isnt afraid to shoot the ball if shes open.
"I felt like I had to be aggressive if I was on the varsity," said the 56" freshman. "That and Coach Massey has told both Claire and I that if we miss a shot or two, dont worry about it. He tells us to keep our heads up."
The second thing you notice about Saline is that fundamentally, shes got a beautiful shot. Brenna can take it from virtually anywhere on the court. Many high school players will miss two or three shots and go into the tank. Not Brenna. She keeps firing away.
Saline is also a lefthander, which according to her, has its positives and negatives. "The good thing is that a lot of other players arent used to guarding lefthanders. But no one can really help me with my shot because Im lefthanded."
She doesnt need a lot of help right now. Saline has good form, a soft touch and good rotation on the ball. "Its kind of natural," said Saline.
Like all young players, both Saline and Anderson have their bad stretches of play. But they work through it and dont give up. And thanks to three lopsided wins in their first three games, both freshmen have piled up the minutes early, which is always a good sign.
Saline scored 7 points in her debut, added 12 more against Limestone and then scored 9 more against Stark County. Against Carthage, scored 8, including a huge three-pointer as the third quarter ended.
Freshmen playing on the varsity arent anything new in Masseys powerhouse basketball program. Both Megan Pacheco and Sarah Larson played with the varsity during their freshmen seasons. Pacheco scored a record 228 points as a freshman, averaging 6.5 points a game.
"This is all pretty exciting," said Saline, the daughter of Harold and Terrie Saline.. "The crowds are incredible and the practices are good for me, too. The seniors have helped me out a lot and its nice to have Claire on the team. We always try and back each other up. Im still trying to pick up the defense because the quickness is so much better up here."
Saline is still growing. "I hope to make it up to five-foot-nine and I think I will." She shows a good sense of the passing game as well and makes the hard pass look easy.
And even though the season is just a week old, Brenna Saline is getting used to her new digs. But she credits the veterans of the team for that. "Michelle Dennison has helped me a lot and so has Brittany Stephan. She picks on me a lot . . . . but she helps me, too."
Such is the life of a freshman.
By John Ring
Shes the other half of the Freshman Connection for the Silver Streaks.
She wears #14 on her jersey¯ but thats by design.
And, just seven games into the season, shes made an impact already for Galesburg coming off the bench.
Claire Anderson is who were talking about.
"Molly Watson was always my favorite player," said Anderson. "Im close to her because shes helped me such with basketball, since I was a little kid. So we had a choice for uniform numbers and I asked for fourteen. It was my first choice and I got it."
Claire Anderson is a product of Costa Catholic School. Shes been focused on basketball since she was in 2nd grade and her goal has always been to become a Silver Streak basketball player. It became a reality when Coach Evan Massey told her she had made the varsity team as a freshman. Her job is to come off the bench, give senior starter Jenna Bicego some rest, and keep the Streaks offense running on high octane.
"I was real happy of course," said Anderson, "because thats always been my goal. I wasnt expecting anything, to tell you the truth, going into the season. I just wanted to play my game and do the best that I could."
And what is Claire Andersons game?
"I like to play the point, I like to pass the ball and Im proud of my ballhandling. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win. Like today against Richwoods, my offense just wasnt there. So I worked the hardest on playing defense."
Claire was matched up against another freshman in Richwoods guard Ward, a lightning quick elusive guard in her own right. "I just tried to contain her. I tried to mess with her mind a little bit, tried to get her frustrated and for her to lose control. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didnt."
"For me, the big thing is confidence. Theres times where I get scared on the court but when Im confident and sure of myself, I play better."
Now that shes a member of the varsity, Claire counts her blessings. "Its nice to have Brenna with me after we were rivals because we can lean on each other when times are tough. But this is all I could have hoped for. I cant wait for the next four years."
Anderson especially celebrated Galesburgs close win over Richwoods on Saturday. "This was just huge. Everyone, the whole team is ecstatic. This is the best feeling in the world."
Anderson and Saline are quickly capturing the hearts of Silver Streak fans. And its a two-way street.
"The fans have just been amazing," said Anderson. "To come out on the floor and be greeted like we are, what can you say about that?"
Just say its Silver Streak basketball.