by Beau Wicker
Pioneer’s boys basketball team moved up a spot in this week’s state rankings.
The Panthers are now ranked No. 7 in Class A, tied with Michigan City Marquette in the state’s AP poll.
Lewis Cass would like nothing better than to knock Pioneer out of the rankings with a win tonight.
The Kings (5-3) travel to Royal Center tonight to take on the Panthers (8-2). It’s their first meeting this year as they did not square off in the county tournament earlier this season.
“No doubt it’s going to be a battle,” Pioneer coach Pat Skaggs said. “So many of the kids know each other. They’ve grown up playing against each other. It’s a big game.”
Cass coach Jon Kitchel said the Panthers certainly look like a Top 10 team in Class A.
“They’ve got four guys who can shoot the ball and a big horse inside,” he said. “They’re a pretty complete team.”
The Panthers enter having won seven games in a row. They’re led in scoring by a sophomore, Carter Skaggs, who’s averaging 18 points per game. The other top scorers are seniors — Brandon Scruggs (13 ppg, 6 assists per game), Matt Dorris (9.5 ppg, 6 rpg), Clayton Harvey (8.5 ppg, 6 rpg) and Mitchell Williams (6 ppg).
Harvey, a 6-6 center, is the “big horse” Kitchel was referring to. Carter Skaggs and Williams are 6-4, Dorris is 6-3 and Scruggs is a 6-1 point guard.
The Kings will counter with a balanced attack of their own, led by guards Austin Keisling (15 ppg) and Blake Hadley (9 ppg) and forwards Ryan Aldridge (11 ppg, 7 rpg) and Jordan Miller (10 ppg, 7 rpg).
“We’re going to have to bring our A game,” Pat Skaggs said. “They’re a solid team. There are several ways they can score. They have two very good guards and a couple of big players, too. We’ll have our hands full. They can score inside and out.”
The Kings enter on a three-game winning streak.
“We’ll lace ’em up and play hard and hopefully knock our shots down,” Kitchel said.
The Kings turn around on Saturday night and have another road game against a county rival, at Logansport.
Marion (6-7, 0-1 NCC) at Logansport (6-5, 0-1 NCC)
The Berries have now won two in a row at Bill Green Arena, but they haven’t beaten the Giants in the Berry Bowl since 2005.
They’ll try to turn that around against a Marion squad that enters 6-7. Logan coach Mark Victor said the Giants’ record is deceptive.
“Coach [Billy] Shepherd has them playing pretty well right now,” Victor said. “[Hunter] Rose, No. 22, is a pretty nice player for them. He’s averaging 22, 23 a game. He has good range. We’ll have to defend the 3-point line, and he can dribble and penetrate as well. [Alec] Turner handles the ball for them. We’ll have to contain his penetration. They’ve got a few big guys who will be a tough matchup for us size-wise.”
The Berries enter having lost two in a row against Western and Harrison last weekend.
“We’ll have to battle through that, and hopefully it’ll help us as the season goes along,” Victor said.
Logan hosts Cass on Saturday night. The Berries defeated the Kings 56-54 on Nov. 28 at the county tournament.
Caston (7-4, 2-0 MWC) at S. Newton (1-7, 0-3 MWC)
The Rebels snapped a 49-game losing streak with a win over Donovan, Ill., earlier this month.
Caston coach Ben Snyder said it’s no fluke the Rebels have gotten back in the win column under new coach Mike Hall, who’s back on the sidelines for the Rebels for the first time since 2004 and is in his 21st year there overall.
“They’ve had a complete overhaul. I’m very impressed with the job he’s doing,” Snyder said. “It’ll be a task for us to go on the road on an hour and a half bus ride and keep our mental focus and effort level we need to have for a conference game. It’ll be a battle for us going there, much more so than the last couple times we’ve played them. They are so much improved. They take care of the basketball much more than they used to.
“Watching them against West Central, they were tied at halftime after winning most of the first half. They were down 2 with four minutes to go in the game with North White. ... They’re night and day from what they were last year. They’re extremely disciplined and don’t take bad shots. They definitely make you earn things.”
The Comets are coming off a 53-36 win at North Miami on Tuesday. Quentin Douglass scored 17 of his game-high 27 points in the second quarter in that contest. He also finished with seven assists. Jake Howdeshell was also in double figures with 11 points.
Winamac (3-6) at N. Judson (2-6)
The Warriors have enjoyed a good run of success in recent years, but they haven’t defeated the rival Bluejays since a 2006 sectional game.
They’ll try to end that run tonight at North Judson.
The Bluejays have also enjoyed a good run of success in recent seasons but have lost six games in a row after opening with wins over Knox and Morgan Township.
“They’re pretty much in the same situation we are,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said. “They have guys who don’t have a great deal of varsity experience and are trying to gain that experience. That’s what both of our teams are going through.
“We’re going on the road in a hostile environment. Hopefully we get ourselves in position to win the game at the end. Against Knox we weren’t able to finish it out at the end of regulation and in the first two overtimes, and Knox was able to finish it out in the third overtime. The kids are learning how to finish games.”