FULTON — The Pioneer girls basketball team has shown it can win in different ways this season.
It was defense that led the Panthers against Kouts in a regional semifinal game on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers shut down the Fillies and won by a score of 50-25 at the Class A Caston Regional.
The No. 7 Panthers (22-4) advance to face HNAC rival Triton (12-11) at 8 p.m. tonight in the championship game.
The Panthers set the tone against the Fillies (17-7) in the first quarter, forcing eight turnovers and jumping out to a 16-2 lead after one quarter of play.
Kouts outscored Pioneer 12-6 in the second quarter to get to within 22-14 at halftime.
But the Panthers again ratcheted up the pressure on defense in the third and outscored the Fillies 13-0 in the quarter to take a 35-14 lead into the fourth.
Madison Blickenstaff had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers. Hailey Cripe had 11 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals. Olivia Brooke had nine points and nine boards. Mackenzie Walker had four points which included a Euro step move for a basket that made it a 46-20 game in the fourth. Brooklyn Borges added two points and three blocked shots.
The Panthers doubled up a regional opponent on a day that D-I prospect Ashlynn Brooke shot 0 of 5 from the field, all from 3. But she still made her impact felt as the Panthers outscored the Fillies 17-8 in the 11 minutes she played. She played just three minutes in the second half as she’s on a minutes restriction as the Panthers try to win two games in one day to repeat as regional champs.
Lauryn Koedyker had nine points to lead the Fillies. The Panthers held leading scorer Allison Capouch to three points on 1 of 10 shooting from the field as she didn’t get many clean looks at the basket.
Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke said his squad did a good job early jumping out to a 16-2 lead in the first quarter.
“I thought our girls really came out aggressive and came out fierce and caused some turnovers early. We knocked down some shots which is good,” he said. “I thought our girls did a nice job on 24 [Capouch] keeping her in check today. I’m not sure they scored in the third quarter. Credit our defense for making sure we knew where she was at. Kouts is a good team. They play aggressive man-to-man defense, and I thought our girls did a nice job handling that today.
“Blickenstaff down in the post today, I don’t know how many offensive rebounds she had but did a wonderful job getting her body in position for those offensive boards and making herself available, a lot of those were lobs in from running that weave. I thought Mackenzie Walker did a nice job stepping up and taking it to the hole and scoring some points for us, so that was great to see.”
Pioneer defeated Triton 46-34 on Dec. 19.
The Trojans enter on a six-game win streak and they knocked off Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 46-40 in the earlier semifinal Saturday.
“Triton is a heck of a ball team and Adam [Heckaman] will have them ready to go,” Brooke said. “They’ve got some great size inside, I think 5-11, 5-11, 6-foot, and today they were doing a nice job of hitting the outside shot. Our girls will have to be prepared to make sure we’re playing 1 through 5 each one of those positions.”