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Local Sports

March 1, 2014

Panthers nearly pull off upset of Cavaliers

ROYAL CENTER — Pioneer’s boys basketball team played right with Tri-County most of the way but came up short late in a 38-33 loss on Friday night.

The Panthers (3-17, 1-6 Midwest Conference) had a one-point lead late but missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Cavaliers (14-6, 5-2) answered with the go-ahead basket.

Tri-County went up three with another late score and Pioneer did not get a good look on a game-tying attempt, and Tri-County hit two free throws with 0.8 seconds left for the final five-point margin.

Pioneer played Tri-County to a 17-17 tie at halftime and 26-26 tie after three quarters.

“We can’t be too upset,” Pioneer coach Austin Cowley said.

Freshman Keith Nies led the Panthers with 14 points.

“The difference was Keith Nies finally got himself some confidence and he had 14 points, a career high,” Cowley said. “The problem was we didn’t get anybody else with him.

“Overall I’m happy. We took one of the sectional favorites down to the wire.”

Sam Kiser and Zach Mason chipped in six points apiece for Pioneer, and J.P. Smith added five.

Dane Hardebeck had 15 points and Zack Patton added 14 to lead the Cavs.

Pioneer also honored its two seniors on the night, Smith and Brad Biggs. Cowley talked about both.

“J.P. is every coach’s vision of how they want players to play and how he approaches every game. He plays all three sports at Pioneer and bleeds Black and Gold. He’s gotten himself in great physical shape and never backs down from a challenge. If you had a whole team with his heart and mentality you’d have a team of winners.

“Biggs didn’t play last year and came back out. He’s the smartest kid we have on the team. Just in life he’ll be very successful because of that. He’s a mature kid, and he talked tonight about how much he respects our underclassmen and how good they’re going to be. It’s fun to be around those two kids.”

The Panthers drew the bye at the Caston Sectional and will face the winner of North White and South Newton next Friday.

The Panthers enter with some confidence after improved play of late and getting a pretty good draw.

“We can make some noise,” Cowley said.

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