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What a difference a year has made for now widely-respected Salem

 What a difference a year has made for now widely-respected Salem

Salem Head Coach Rod Wells is flanked by senior returning starters Madison Morson (left) and Abby Resovsky.

For possibly the first time in the history of Michigan high school girls basketball, a pre-season coaches poll fueled a team’s run to the Class A Final Four.

It all started when Salem Heach Coach Rod Wells walked into the Northville High School cafeteria one night in November of 2022 for the KLAA Basketball Media Day event, picked up an event program and leafed through it until he found the page that included where each team was predicted to finish during the upcoming season.

“I saw where the other coaches picked us to finish in the (six-team) division and thought, ‘Fifth?!’,” Wells recalled during Monday night’s 2023-24 KLAA Basketball Media event hosted by Northville. “So many teams had lost a lot of players from the previous season and we had basically everybody coming back.

Fueled by D-I-S-R-E-S-P-E-C-T

“So, they were saying the other teams’ benches were better than our starters?! I’ll be honest with you: I was very upset.”

Salem poses with its District championship trophy last March
Salem poses with its District championship trophy last March

Wells shared his emotions with his players at the outset of the next day’s practice.

“Coach was mad,” recounted now-senior Abby Resovsky. “And as soon as he told us, we were mad. We took it as disrespect and I think I speak for my teammates when I say we take disrespect very seriously.”

“Personally, proving people wrong is one of my favorite things to do,” added now-senior Madi Morson, who has committed to play basketball at the next level for Central Michigan University.

“We had just come off a great summer when we worked extremely hard and beat a lot of teams, so we knew we were about to have a great season. It was time to make everybody else believers.”

They’re believers now

The Rocks did that and more.

Following a 2-5 start to the 2022-23 season, Salem took off, winning 16 of their next 17 games.

Madison Morson banks in a lefthanded layup
Madison Morson banks in a lefthanded layup

Along the way, the Rocks captured district and regional titles and their season didn’t end until they were ousted by No. 1-ranked West Bloomfield in a Class A semifinal game at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

Not bad for a team picked to finish near the basement of their conference.

“We used that coaches poll as motivation,” admitted Wells, who wore a slick “Salem Final Four” sweatshirt to Monday’s media event. “What’s funny is we weren’t even favored to win our district or the regional. It just shows you how a little disrespect can go a long way.”

Understandably, Salem enters the upcoming season as the hunted instead of the hunter, Wells said.

Different outlook

As you may have guessed, Monday night’s printed program listed Salem as the team to beat in the KLAA West Division.

Morson said it’s important that she and her teammates don’t rest on their past season’s laurels.

“To be honest, this summer was a little rocky,” the All-State player admitted. “While we still worked extremely hard, there were times I think we were still riding the wave from last year.

“It’s a new year and every team is different. Teams are going to be ready for us now, so we have to step up.”

Hard-earned R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The Rocks are now basking in the respect they earned, Wells added.

“It feels different, even around the school,” he said. “I’ll walk into the school and people are like, ‘Hey, Coach!’ It’s obvious the students, teachers and administrators are proud of what we accomplished.

“I’ve noticed the players even walk different than they did before last year. They’re more confident.”

What a difference a year makes.

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

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Ed Wright

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