ROYAL CENTER — Pioneer’s boys basketball team enters the season ranked No. 5 in Class A poll.
But the Panthers have no players back that saw any extensive varsity time from last year’s team that finished ranked No. 4, was a regional finalist and finished with a 21-4 record.
“Whether that’s a carry over from last year or from the success of the football team and how good they were with a young team this year, I’m not sure yet,” Pioneer coach Austin Cowley said of the high ranking. “It adds excitement to the team. The guys are all relatively new to varsity and they’re looking forward to getting out there and seeing if the ranking holds true for us. We’re being humble and not talking about it and we’ll see if we really are a top 10 team.”
Cowley takes the reins from Pat Skaggs who won four straight sectional titles at Pioneer. Skaggs took the job at Logansport following last season.
Pioneer dominated its sectional field a year ago, winning every regular season game by double digits and every sectional contest by at least 23 points.
Pioneer’s heavy losses to graduation seemingly leaves the field wide open.
Cowley coached the Pioneer JV team the last two years under Skaggs. The Panthers’ JV went 14-6 a year ago.
Cowley said the Panthers will not concede anything this season.
“We’ve won four in a row and these guys don’t want to be the ones to end that streak,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from former players and we still have a family program that coach Skaggs started, and we want to keep it rolling.”
Two of the Panthers’ top players are 6-2 sophomores Sam Kiser and Caleb Kindley.
The Panthers have two seniors on the team in 6-footer J.P. Smith and 6-2 Brad Biggs.