The Huron girls’ basketball team was not a one-player team. Far from it. Their greatest strength was their depth and team chemistry. They had plenty of talent to mix and match and when something wasn’t working, they had other parts to come in and run the machine.
The River Rats also were not a team to make excuses. They lost to Dexter in the first round of Districts because the Dreadnaughts simply outplayed them. They were better on that day.
But, while not an excuse, a reason for the team’s sudden departure was an injury to a key player at a key position at a key point in the season. The team certainly wasn’t decimated when Eden Johnson sprained her ankle against Saline at the end of the regular season but Johnson was a key contributor, especially on offense where she averaged 15 points along with seven rebounds.
The loss to Dexter still stings and probably will until the River Rats lace the sneakers up again next season. But the big picture for Huron was colored in victories and success. One game doesn’t define a season.
“We weren’t expecting it to end like it did but overall I’m very happy with the progress we made from start to finish,” said Coach Waleed Samaha whose team went 18-2 on the season. “We won our league and had an 18-game win streak between our first and last game. Overall, it was a successful season.”
There were plenty of things to be proud of during the 2017-18 season.
“The kids had a great work ethic,” said Samaha. “From the first day of practice until the final game they embraced competing and embraced learning. They embraced the process of improvement which is really your mental approach to the game. I was really impressed with that.”
Before taking over the Huron team, Samaha spent the previous 16 months as the University of Michigan men’s basketball director of basketball operations. He had coached girls’ basketball “many, many years before.”
“It was a similar situation in that a coach had left the program, it was a JV team back in 2000 and that was just a three-month deal,” he said. “I just stepped in to help the program. This one was a little more higher stakes.”
At the end of the day, it is basketball, a subject Samaha feels very comfortable teaching and coaching.
“It’s basketball played by kids who are competitors,” he said. “You have people coming together with a common goal and that doesn’t matter if it’s at Michigan or the Huron boys’ team or the Huron girls’ team or a rec league. If you have a group of players working hard and trying to work together to accomplish something that makes it rewarding.”
Samaha said he was disappointed in the loss to Dexter but not in the effort of his players. He was never disappointed when it came to effort.
“Losing Eden was tough and we overcame it as best we could,” he said. “But give credit to Dexter. They played a great game. We played hard and we just came up short and that happens at all levels.”