Huron had an opportunity on its home court Tuesday to clinch the Southeastern Conference Red Division title. Saline, however, played spoiler in beating the River Rats, meaning Huron’s celebration would have to wait another game.
Huron had a second chance to clinch the crown on Friday night, and the second time turned out to be the charm. The River Rats wrapped up the league title in style with a wire-to-wire 60-47 road win over its crosstown rival Pioneer.
Huron improves to 16-3 overall on the season, and finishes with a 9-1 record in SEC Red competition, one game ahead of second-place Saline.
Huron head coach Scott Hunter said he was proud of his team’s performance.
“It’s special, both winning the rivalry game and the SEC Red,” Hunter said. “I’m just really excited for the girls; they fought so hard. All the energy and hard work paid off.”
Seniors Siena and Jadyn Smith had standout performances for the River Rats. The twins netted 17 and 15 points respectively.
“They love the game and bring high basketball I.Q.,” Hunter said. “They’re both good shooters, they get to the basket, and they hit their foul shots. Defensively, both of them have excellent length and they contest shots.”
Huron took control from the opening tip, opening the game with an 11-3 run. The River Rats took advantage in transition, turning steals and defensive rebounds into layups, floaters, and three-pointers on the other end.
Siena Smith stole a pass on the first possession of the game and made a layup on the other end, giving Huron the lead only 30 seconds into the game. After Huron forced a turnover, she knocked down a three-pointer to extend Huron’s lead to 7-3.
Huron’s Reeya Patel added insult to injury for the Pioneers, swishing a three-pointer at the buzzer in the first quarter to give the River Rats a 17-8 lead at the end of the quarter. Patel finished with 11 points.
Pioneer responded with a run of its own, closing the gap early in the second quarter. Huron’s shooting went cold, and Pioneer scored the first eight points of the quarter to trim Huron’s lead to 17-16. Pioneer sophomore Lauren DeWolf was a dominating presence in the post for the Pioneers, and she scored four of her team-leading 16 points in this stretch.
Hunter wasn’t surprised that Pioneer made a run.
“We came out ready to play, but of course they made a run. They’re a good team and it’s their home floor,” Hunter said. “We absorbed that blow and came back and re-grouped.”
That was as close as Pioneer would get, as Huron took command and never looked back. The Pioneers did not hold a lead at any point in the game.
Huron responded with a 12-4 run in the final 3:42 to take a 29-20 lead into halftime. Mckenzie Maciejewski and Siena Smith each made a three-pointer for the River Rats in the final minutes of the half.
The teams played a fairly even third quarter, with Pioneer outscoring Huron 12-10.
Siena and Jaydn Smith combined for seven points for Huron in the quarter, including a three-point play from Siena in the final minute of the quarter off a steal. Pioneer sophomore Brein Brogan scored four of her 10 points for the game in the quarter.
Huron led 39-32 after the third quarter.
Huron effectively iced the game with a 10-3 run to start the fourth quarter, and was able to make necessary foul shots down the stretch to prevent Pioneer to get any closer.
Huron returns to the hardwood when it hosts Chelsea on Feb. 28. Chelsea (16-2) is currently tied for first place in the SEC White Division.
Pioneer falls to 10-9 on the season, and next plays Jackson (9-7) on Feb. 28. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Pioneer.