Girls Basketball: River Rats hang on to beat Pioneers, head to District final

The Huron girls’ basketball team did what every good team does – they answered every challenge right up until the final whistle on Wednesday night at Lincoln HS.

Another thing a very good team does is beat a city rival three times in a season and that’s exactly what the River Rats needed to do in their District semifinal game at Lincoln. Beating a young, talented and improving team like Pioneer wasn’t going to be easy and it certainly wasn’t as the Pioneers made the River Rats earn their trip to the District Finals.

In the end, however, Huron answered every challenge right up until the end and earned a 44-40 win over the young Pioneers. The River Rats will face Saline at 7 p.m. in a District final at Lincoln on Friday night. The Hornets knocked off host Lincoln 60-17 in the first semifinal on Wednesday.

In a game that was close from start to finish, Huron led 11-7 after the first quarter and 25-20 at halftime. Each team scored 10 points in the third quarter and the River Rats took a 35-30 lead into the fourth quarter. And it turned out to be a pretty exciting fourth quarter.

With around 7 minutes to go in the game, the Pioneers trailed by five points and twice had chances to make it a one-possession game but came up empty.

After running some time off the clock, Huron’s Reeya Patel drove down the lane and delivered a perfect bounce pass to Khady Ba, who converted the layup into a 37-30 lead with about 5:50 to play in the game.

Despite good defense by Patel, Pioneer’s Lauren DeWolf took a step back and knocked down a tough triple to cut the deficit to 37-33. The Pioneers were not going to go quietly into the night.

The Pioneers got a turnover but quickly turned the ball back over to Huron.

A traveling call gave the ball back to the Pioneers. Alexis Clark was fouled inside and the sophomore knocked down two free throws to cut the deficit to 37-35 with 3:56 to play in the game.

The River Rats needed to make a play. And that’s exactly what Siena Smith did. After running the offense, showing some nice patience and not appearing rattled in the least, the ball ended up in the hands of Smith at the top of the key. The senior took a big step into the lane, another big step back out of the lane and beyond the three-point line, and knocked down a huge triple.

Smith’s basket gave the River Rats a 40-35 lead. Pioneer called time out with 2:37 left in the game.

Pioneer’s Mya Hicks had a good look at a triple but the ball caught the rim and Huron’s MiLisa Curtis grabbed the rebound.

Siena Smith made a sweet drive to the basket and dished off a perfect bounce pass to Ba, who was fouled underneath. The senior made one free throw to make it 41-35.

Curtis then made a nice steal on the defensive end to get the ball back for Huron. But Pioneer executed an excellent half-court trap and Felicia Stewart stole the ball right back for the purple and white. Stewart delivered a perfect long pass to DeWolf, whose three-point attempt this time hit rim. Patel grabbed the rebound for the River Rats with 1:27 left in the game.

Stewart again made a play on defense as she stole the inbound pass. But the Pioneers couldn’t score and the River Rats stole the ball back on a nice defensive play by Patel underneath.

Patel stepped to the line and knocked down two free throws to push Huron’s lead to 43-35 with 1 minute to play.

DeWolf went right down the middle and scored an uncontested layup to make it 43-37.

DeWolf again drove to the basket and made a tough scooping shot to cut the deficit to 43-39 with 31 seconds left in the game. See above reference about not going quietly into the night.

Patel was quickly fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one.

The Pioneers struggled to get off a quick shot off before DeWolf was fouled. She hit a free throw with 1.5 seconds left to make it 43-40. She tried to miss the second but ended up missing the rim which gave the ball to Huron.

Curtis hit a free throw for the final points of the game.

Jadyn Smith led Huron with 15 points, including nine points in the second quarter. Patel and Sienna Smith each scored seven. Curtis had five points and Alexa Lyon scored four for the River Rats.

Clark led Pioneer with 15 points and went 5 for 6 at the free-throw line. DeWolf had 13 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Stewart finished with four points.

The Pioneers should be among the top teams next season. Coach Tyrone Hicks’ team had five sophomores and only two seniors on the roster this season.