by Beau Wicker
If West Central had any thoughts of pulling off a huge upset against Pioneer on Saturday night, those thoughts were quickly erased by a Panther squad that came out of the gates absolutely on fire.
The Panthers put on a shooting clinic early and were able to cruise the rest of the way to an easy 65-30 win over the Trojans to win their fourth straight sectional title.
The Class A No. 4 Panthers (20-3) will shoot for their first regional title next weekend since Royal Center High School won one 50 years ago.
Pioneer coach Pat Skaggs is 4-for-4 in winning sectional titles at Pioneer. The Panthers won their sixth sectional title overall.
Skaggs was emotional following the win.
“I’m a pretty emotional guy and a couple of those senior guys come up and give you a hug ...,” he said while choking up. “I was fine until the players came over there.
“It’s just four years have went by awful quick and these seniors mean so much to this program. They’ve done so much. So it’s been an awesome ride so far and I’m just really proud of those kids.”
The Panthers have seven seniors on the roster. Brandon Scruggs and Matthew Dorris have played a big role in each of the last four sectional titles.
“They were varsity letterwinners for four years, and this is the fourth net that they’ve cut down and there’s not too many guys in the state of Indiana that can say that,” Skaggs said. “That’s quite an accomplishment.
“The other seniors have just done a great job. They’ve been great kids to coach. It’s been a lot of fun.”
If there was a sectional MVP, it would have been Scruggs. He averaged 24.3 points per game in the three sectional wins.
“Without a doubt Brandon Scruggs has just continued an unbelievable streak,” Skaggs said. “He’s just been on a tear probably the last five or six games and really shooting the 3 ball well. And obviously he’s such a big part of our team even if he’s not scoring, but throw in the fact that he’s really shooting well just makes him outstanding.”
Scruggs, a 6-foot-1 point guard, had a game-high 18 points on Saturday night. He opened the game scoring on an alley-oop from Williams, and then buried three straight 3-pointers in the first quarter. Carter Skaggs ended the quarter with another bomb, and the Panthers led 21-5 after one. Pioneer shot 8 of 10 from the field for the quarter including 4 of 4 from 3-point land.
Said Scruggs of the fast start: “We knew that Tri-County was the favorite in the first game against them. West Central just came out and outhustled Tri-County. We knew we didn’t want that to happen to us intensity and show them what we had.”
While the Panthers were bombing away from the outside, their size and athleticism hindered the Trojans (7-16) on the other end of the court in their 2-3 zone. Pioneer led 31-11 at halftime and 51-23 in the third quarter in what was a comfortable march to the championship.
Seniors Dillon Stanton and Tyler Beaupre hit back-to-back 3-pointers to end the game to provide an exclamation point to the win.
Carter Skaggs finished with 17 points, Williams scored nine and Dorris posted eight.
Michael Hamilton led the Trojans with 12 points. Drew McKay had seven and Spencer Holliday added six.
Pioneer faces Gary 21st Century (15-7) at 10:30 a.m. next Saturday at the Triton Regional. Gary 21st Century knocked off No. 5 Kouts 56-49 earlier this week.
No. 10 Triton (17-5) is also in the regional field after a 47-46 win over No. 8 Michigan City Marquette on Saturday night. No. 13 Fort Wayne Canterbury (14-8) plays No. 12 Lakewood Park (17-5) on Monday night to determine the fourth team in the regional field.