- Associated Press - Monday, March 26, 2018

ADRIAN, Mich. (AP) - The Salenbien household was flooded with recognition and awards the past few weeks.

And for Adrian Lenawee Christian freshman, Bree, and her father, Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Jamie Salenbien, the hope is there’s whole lot more where that came from.

Bree, a freshman, helped complete a turnaround for a program that went 23-29 the past two seasons to become one of the best small school teams in the state.

After a two-year stretch with a sub.-500 record, Lenawee Christian had the best season in its history, going 19-1 in the regular season before rattling off seven straight postseason victories to claim the program’s first Class D state championship.

“We were just so confident and so focused,” Jamie Salenbien said. “As we went through the state tournament, we really grew up. We were no longer this team of young kids anymore. We tried to stick to the one-game-at-a-time plan and not look too far ahead.”

For her integral role in leading the team to a championship, Bree, who was named the Adrian County Player of the Year, has been named The Associated Press Class D girls basketball Player of the Year.

Bree led her team in almost every statistical category, averaging 21.1 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 steals, 3.2 blocks and three assists per game and her well-rounded game is a major reason that she’s being courted by Division I colleges all over the country despite being just 14 years old.

Salenbien, a 6-foot-2 point-forward who can play nearly any position on the court, already holds offers from Minnesota, Toledo and Xavier while a handful of other power five conference teams have reached out to express interest.

“We had really good team chemistry,” Bree said. “It’s still pretty crazy to think about, though and I just want to keep getting better.”

Bree also cited a community’s worth of support as a reason for her big season and the team’s historic run.

It’s still pretty crazy how everything happened this year,” she said. “I still can’t believe it. I’m so proud of my team. All the support we had was amazing.”

Some of that support came from off the court, while a lot came from on the court. Her older sister, Dani, a sophomore, was named to The AP all-state second team, while her father and coach, Jamie, was named the AP Class D Coach of the Year.

The Class D first team consisted of 12 players: Bailey Whitcomb, Bellevue; Milly Allen, Chassell; Taylor Opolka, Pickford; Daelyn Merrilat, Morenci; Scout Nelson, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart; Tiffany Senerius, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes; Emma Johnson, Harbor Light Christian; Mariah Pringle, Brethren; Alex Hunter, Gaylord St. Mary; Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire; and Kelsey Richards, Fruitport Cavalry Christian.

They were selected by a panel of sportswriters.

Bree scored 20 points in her varsity debut this season, followed by a 29-point night later that week. That only set the tone for more big shots and moments, including scored 24 and 25 in consecutive district playoff games hitting the game-winning shot against Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in the state semifinals to advance to the championship game.

“She’s got that big game mentality,” Jamie said.

Good thing, too, because Bree has a lot of big games left ahead of her.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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