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Ann Arbor Huron slips past Cass Tech, extends winning streak to nine

Basketball   | Joe Buczek

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Warren - Sometimes, a win’s a win.

At least that’s what the Ann Arbor Huron boys basketball can take away from Saturday’s game against Detroit Cass Tech.

Despite being held to just three makes in the fourth quarter of Saturday, Huron and its usually potent offense ran its winning streak to nine straight with a 52-51 come-from-behind win over Cass Tech at the fifth annual Horatio Williams Foundation Freedom Classic. 

Trailing 51-50 after a pair of makes at the line by Cass Tech’s Gary Soloman with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth, Dave Wren drove the ball up the court to the left wing and found an open Jalen Thompson for the go-ahead layup with 21.6 seconds left on the clock. The River Rats also had an opportunity to ice the game at the line with six seconds left, but could not convert on either chance – something both teams struggled with Saturday.

“Cass Tech is a very well-coached team, and I don’t think David (Dixon) gets enough credit for coaching that team” Huron coach Saleed Samaha said. “Cass Tech is very smart, athletic and tough and they gave us fits today. You’ve got to figure out a way to win ugly sometimes, which we did, because we were bankrupt offensively today.”

 Huron trailed by as many as nine in the early stages of the second quarter before ending the half on an 18-9 run to make it a tied ballgame at 30-30 after two quarters. The River Rats held a seven-point, 42-35 lead with 2:53 remaining in the third quarter, but let the Technicians back in the game with a 9-2 run to end the third tied at 44-44.

 “The one thing we don’t do is we don’t make excuses,” Samaha said. “We told our guys that Cass Tech had a game yesterday just like us, so the legs for both teams were wobbly, especially early on. We played more zone today than we like to play, but it was necessary to zone today.”

Cass Tech’s 6-foot-4 junior forward Darwin Hubbard stormed out of the gate with 12 points in the opening quarter, as the Technicians (3-6) took a 19-12 lead the opening eight minutes. Hubbard, who finished the game with 26 points, was kept in check in the second half, scoring only eight.

“We made a defensive adjustment to front him (Hubbard) in the high post and low post, because it didn’t matter where he was catching the ball because he was killing us,” Samaha said. “We made the adjustment in our zone to take away the high post and low post, which I think limited his touches. I think that when you limit the touches of a player, you limit their effectiveness.”

Huron (9-1) placed three in double figures, with Xavier Cochran leading the way with 14 points. Thompson and Wren also finished with 12 and 11, respectively.

“We’ve had a well-balanced scoring effort all year, but we’ve also been scoring in 70s and 80s,” Samaha said. “I think our guys were getting frustrated because we weren’t scoring. I’ve been telling the guys that our defense can’t take the day off. It doesn’t matter how we’re doing offensively, because if the shots aren’t falling, we need to find a way to win like we did today.”

Saturday’s win was Huron’s ninth straight since its 80-73 season-opening loss to Detroit Henry Ford on Dec. 12 at North Farmington’s Oakland Invitational. Since then, the River Rats have outscored opponents by an average of 17 points per game and have settled just two games in that stretch by single digits, something Samaha credits to win his team’s experience.

“We have some experienced players that have done some winning in the past,” Samaha said. “The guys know that when they take the floor, they are expected to perform at a high level and win, so we kind of have a winning pedigree in our program. The players understand the expectations, and there’s not a guy in that locker room with a smile on his face right now.”?