Midway through the third quarter, Pioneer looked destined to pull an upset against crosstown rival Huron in the latest city-rivalry matchup. Huron, which suffered its first loss of the season in an upset by Skyline last week, didn’t want a repeat.
The River Rats shifted into another gear, leaving Pioneer in its wake. Huron’s 13-2 run to start the fourth quarter propelled the River Rats to a 63-48 victory over the Pioneers in a Southeastern Conference battle Friday at Pioneer High School.
Huron head coach Waleed Samaha said his team’s victory meant more than winning just another game.
“The rivalry games are the best games,” Samaha said. “These kids grow up together and know each other. They’ve gone to the same elementary and middle schools and will see each other all spring and summer. It’s great to beat a rival.”
The Pioneers took the early lead after a back-and-forth first quarter. Pioneer senior guard Mac VanRenterghem did a terrific job both quarterbacking the Pioneers’ offense from the top of the key and was a dominant force in the paint. He scored eight of his game-leading 18 points in the first quarter.
Huron was able to absorb Pioneer’s run by creating scoring of its own in the paint, taking advantage of offensive rebounding. Mike Robinson and Devin Womack both had excellent first quarters, combining for nine points to keep the River Rats in the game. Pioneer led 12-11 after the first quarter.
Huron took the lead in the second quarter, thanks in large part to outstanding play from Womack, who scored seven of his team-leading 16 points in the quarter. He was able to force Pioneer fouls, finish at the basket, and drained a three-pointer in the final seconds of the half to give Huron a 26-23 halftime lead.
“He’s [Womack] got great body control, so when he gets downhill, he can finish at the basket,” Samaha said. “He’s got great vision – he finds the open man and keeps our offense alive. We really appreciate the way he plays. He’s one of many weapons for us.”
Huron opened the third quarter with two quick baskets from Brandon Rawls and Kingsley Perkins, extending its lead, but Pioneer did not go away. A three-point play from VanRenterghem and two baskets from Rasheed Sampson cut Huron’s lead to three midway through the quarter, prompting Samaha to make an adjustment.
“We made an adjustment guarding their ball screens,” Samaha said. “Our guys liked it, so we stuck with it and did a good job. We kept it going in the fourth quarter and we were able to get some rebounds and push the ball.”
Huron’s adjustment paid off in a big way. Better interior defense and rebounding led to opportunities in transition, and Huron took advantage with a huge run to start the fourth quarter.
A steal and blocked shot led to two baskets for Robinson early in the quarter, including a dunk that sent the Huron fans into a crescendo. Robinson finished with 12 points for the River Rats.
Pioneer made a late comeback attempt, led by seven points from VanRenterghem in the quarter, but Huron made 9 of 12 free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
Huron, already having locked up the Southeastern Conference Red Division crown, improved its record to 16-1 on the season with the victory. It returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Detroit Old Redford (7-10).
Pioneer falls to 10-8 for the season, and next travels to Novi Christian Academy (10-7) on Feb. 28.