As the old saying goes, you can’t win them all – but the Huron boys’ basketball team came within 8 minutes of pulling it off.
Huron (20-1), which hadn’t lost in 27 games dating to last season, had a chance to render that cliché utterly useless in Saturday’s Division 1 State Championship game at MSU’s Breslin Center. Instead, Grand Blanc (15-2) turned the tide in the final quarter, outscoring the River Rats 16-6 to win the program’s first state title, 45-36.
Senior point guard Devin Womack led all scorers with 18 points, but no other River Rat scored more than six points.
Grand Blanc enjoyed a more balanced attack. Sophomore point guard RJ Taylor led the Bobcats with 15 points, while Timonte Boyd and standout forward Ty Rodgers scored nine and six points respectively.
Huron head coach Waleed Samaha said the loss wasn’t for lack of effort.
“I’m really proud of our kids. We’re disappointed obviously in the outcome, but we know we gave it everything we had out there tonight,” Samaha said.
On the whole, Huron put together a defensive masterpiece, holding a Grand Blanc team that averaged 77.3 points per game coming into the contest to more than 30 points below its average.
Huron wasted no time showing its defense prowess, as seniors Brandon Rawls and Kingsley Perkins forced a jump ball and a turnover on the opening possession. For further proof of Huron’s sensational defense, the Rats held Grand Blanc to only 12-for-43 (27.9%) shooting, and outrebounded the Bobcats, 39-33.
“I thought we did a great job on the glass, keeping them off the glass because they score a lot. That team averages almost 80 points a game and we held them to 45. This team plays elite defense,” Samaha said.
Unfortunately for Huron, inconsistent offensive execution and foul trouble marred the defensive effort. The Rats turned the ball over 14 times, compared to only 6 for the Bobcats. Grand Blanc outscored Huron 13-5 for the game on points off turnovers.
Foul trouble and missed free throws doomed the Rats more than turnovers. Senior guard Julian Lewis and Rawls each picked up their fourth foul in the third quarter, and Huron struggled with both on the bench early in the fourth quarter. Lewis fouled out with 1:46 remaining with Huron only trailing by three.
Meanwhile, Huron did not take advantage of its chances from the free-throw line as it usually does, shooting a mere 3-for-13 (23.1%) from the stripe. Huron as a team made about 66% of its free throws entering the game, per Samaha.
“Some of our better free-throw shooters didn’t get to the line today, so that’s part of it,” Samaha said. “It wasn’t so much the totality of the free throws; it was when they happened. We had some empty possessions offensively, and some of those were 0-for-2 at the free-throw line, so those hurt.”
One such example of this came in the early minutes of the third quarter. Huron played some of its best basketball defensively in the third quarter, holding the Bobcats to only five points for the entire quarter.
But Grand Blanc was able to hang around thanks to missed free throws. After Womack broke a 24-24 tie at half with a jumper in the third quarter’s first minute, Huron had two chances to extend its lead at the charity stripe in two minutes, but Lewis and Perkins each missed a pair of foul shots.
After the Bobcats took a 35-34 midway through the fourth quarter on a three from Josh Rechsteiner, Perkins forced a shooting foul on Rodgers, and Huron had the chance to reclaim the lead with under four minutes remaining in the game. Two missed foul shots later, the Bobcats still led.
Trailing 39-34 with 1:25 remaining, Huron had a chance to cut Grand Blanc’s lead to one score, but Perkins missed a pair from the line, and the Bobcats effectively clinched the championship with a layup from A’Monte Allen-Johnson with one minute remaining.
Despite the missed foul shots, Perkins was a dominant force in the paint for the Rats. He grabbed six offensive rebounds and 14 total rebounds, doubling the next best player in the statistic. He scored six points as well.
PHOTO: Huron’s Brandon Rawls (23) keeps the pressure on Jacob Carlson. Courtesy of MHSAA. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)