By Clyde Hughes
For the Pharos-Tribune
Pioneer’s boys basketball team could not maintain the momentum it gained against Lafayette Jeff in the second quarter, as the Panthers fell in their season opener to the Bronchos 51-38 Wednesday night at the Crawley Center.
Pioneer limited Jeff to one basket in the second quarter and took a 17-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. But the Bronchos scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to grab a 24-17 lead, and the Panthers could only get the game down to two possessions just once.
“I though the 2-3 zone in the second quarter bothered Jeff and gave us a lift,” said Pioneer coach Pat Skaggs. “It got us ahead. We didn’t execute or play very well in the third quarter. You have to give Lafayette Jeff credit for that. I thought there were times where their pressure bothered us.”
Lafayette Jeff scored 22 points in the third quarter to take a 36-24 advantage into the final period. Pioneer fought back, cutting the Bronchos’ lead to 43-36 after a Brandon Scruggs long 3-pointer with 2:22 left.
After getting the ball back with a chance to trim the lead even farther, Lafayette Jeff freshman Darian Collins stepped in front of a Pioneer pass and went the length of the court for a layup with 1:20 to all but ice the game.
“That was a big play in the game,” Skaggs said. “Our stats show that we had 11 or 12 turnovers. That’s pretty good, but it seems nearly all of those turnovers led to Jeff baskets. In a game like this, six to eight points are pretty big.”
Pioneer had all the momentum in the second quarter. After trailing 12-7 after the first eight minutes, the Panthers held the Bronchos to two points — a Collins steal and layup at the 6:50 mark.
Matthew Dorris’ turnaround jumper gave Pioneer its first lead at 15-14 with 3:20 left. Carter Skaggs extended the lead to three points on another jumper with 1:15 left.
“I thought we had a real drought in the first half and missed a lot of good looks in the second quarter,” said Jeff coach Scott Radeker. “We settled for the 3-point shot a little too much in the second quarter. We really didn’t settle for the 3-pointer in the second half and I think that showed. I thought our kid did a good job looking into the middle of the zone and finishing around the basket.”
Scruggs led all scorers with 17 points while Carter Skaggs added 10. Overall, though, the Panthers did not shoot the ball well against Jeff, which constantly pestered ball handlers in the halfcourt. The Panthers shot 37.5 percent (15 for 40) for the game.
The taller Pioneer team was outrebounded by Jeff 31-27 while holding the Bronchos to 22.2 percent shooting in the first half (6 for 27). The Bronchos, though, improved that total to 52.2 percent (22 for 23) in the second half.
Radeker said he was impressed not only with Pioneer’s experience, but how hard they played.
“That’s a great Pioneer team and they’re going to have a great year,” Radeker said. “They have a lot of kids back from last year’s team. They are a real hard-nosed team and they play really hard. I see them going a long way in Class A.”
Scruggs said there were times that the Panthers got caught up with running with Jeff instead of settling into their offense. He said that lesson will prove valuable as the season goes along.
“Sometimes we got too sped up and got lost on defense too many times,” Scruggs said. “Those are little things that we can fix in practice and we’ll be alright. We need to learn that we need to work on offense, slow down and take smart cuts and not let teams speed us up.”