By Rick Conrad For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — ROYAL CENTER — Pioneer played host to the Maconaquah Braves Thursday night in a non-conference match up in Royal Center.
Coming off back to back games of improved play the Panthers continued the trend. Unfortunately for them, they could only keep up the improved play for 16 of the 32 minutes needed. The result was a 63-39 pasting by the Braves.
The Panthers played a strong first half a trailed just 23-21 going into the break. Once the second half started Pioneer simply ran into a buzzsaw. For whatever reason, Pioneer took steps backwards after taking big strides forward the previous 10 quarters of play. Whether it was fatigue (fourth game in the six days) or the size and experience of the Braves, Pioneer just simply could not compete with the visitors in the second half.
In the opening quarter of play both squads played solidly on the defensive end of the court and baskets proved to be elusive for both teams. With the lead going back and forth it was Maconaquah that was able to slightly pull ahead 11-8 after one quarter of play.
The second quarter saw the Panthers trying to make their move and a basket from the corner by Brad Biggs at the 7:00 mark gave Pioneer a 12-11 lead. Moments later Keith Nies drained one from behind the arc to allow Pioneer to regain a 17-15 lead. After the Nies basket the visitors quickly took a timeout. By the 3:35 mark Pioneer had taken their lead to 21-17. The lead was short-lived as the Braves tied it up at 21-21 with 1:20 left before the half. They hit again with time winding down to take the 23-21 lead into the break.
Then disaster struck for the Panthers. Each Pioneer player in uniform quickly learned about Murphy’s Law. Whatever could go wrong for Pioneer did go wrong. Offensively, shots were not falling when they had them and turnovers prevented Pioneer from getting any kind of rhythm going. Just two minutes into the third quarter the Braves had capped a 10-0 run against the Panthers and were just getting started.
Defensively the Panthers had no answer in attempting to stop the Maconaquah assault. The Maconaquah guards time after time broke down the perimeter defense and were able to penetrate into the middle hitting easy shots or feeding the post for the bigger Braves to score at will. With the offense stagnant and the defense getting shredded the Panthers found themselves at a 42-25 disadvantage by the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter was pretty much a repeat of the third with Pioneer struggling to score and the Braves scoring at will. The Panthers were able to connect on a couple from long range late in the contest but there was just too much in the Braves attack to hope for any kind of a comeback.
Leading the way for the Panthers (3-16) was Caleb Kindley with 10 points.
Leading the Braves (6-12) was Wyatt Hughes with a game-high 21 points. He was followed by Kyle Dinn with 20 and Adam Harts with 10 of his own.
“I really thought that we had things figured out during the first half,” Pioneer coach Austin Cowley said. “During the break we talked about keeping our confidence and we talked about hitting the open shots we were getting inside. But they came out and went on a run right away and the lead went from two to 10 and it only took like a 1:20 for that to happen and we just never got settled in after that.
“Give credit to Maconaquah. They sped us up and kept us from running our offense. The things that had been working for us they simply took away.”