By CHRIS MACKINDER
ROYAL CENTER — There were no late-game heroics on this night for Pioneer.
A day after defeating Winamac on a late triple, the Panthers ran into a bigger, stronger and faster Maconaquah team, losing 81-45.
“They’re quick and better athletes than we are,” Pioneer coach David McWherter said. “We were no match for them. We couldn’t stop their dribble penetration and on offense we couldn’t get past their defense. That was the difference in the game.”
Three players scored in double figures for Maconaquah and the Braves had 10 different players score in all. Philip Garnett led the way with 23 points and five rebounds, Matt Cox added 19 off the bench and Kodi Deisch chipped in 15.
Despite scoring just four points before fouling out, Maconaquah’s Charles Duckwall did vault himself into the spotlight for a few seconds. After hitting a floater to put his team up 16 points early in the second quarter, Duckwall picked off a pass near center court, raced down to the other end, and punctuated his scoring night with a one-handed slam that even got the Pioneer crowd cheering.
Matt Gates led Pioneer with 12 points while Brandon Gerlach added 11 in what his coach called one of his best games of the season. The Panthers did have seven players score in all, which is the kind of balanced scoring McWherter has been looking for.
“I think the kids stayed positive,” McWherter said. “We talked about that during timeouts, at halftime and after the game. They’re just not happy with the result. I was happy with our balance but we just need to be more consistent.”
But it wasn’t enough to slow down the Maconaquah attack that scored at will from all areas of the floor.
The Braves (13-6) hit six three-pointers, went 13-for-16 from the free-throw line and were able to create easy layups with precision ball movement. Maconaquah dominated the boards with 36 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end.
Maconaquah also forced Pioneer into 16 turnovers while committing just 10.
“We were just more skilled and that’s what it looked like out there,” Maconaquah coach Rick Clark said. “Our kids worked hard defensively and offensively... Give Pioneer credit, their kids played hard, too. They really worked hard.”
Maconaquah scored the first eight points in the game and never trailed.
Pioneer (5-14) made a few runs but could only make a small dent of a comeback. The Panthers traded baskets after halftime and trailed 53-33 with about three minutes to play in the third quarter. But the Braves finished the quarter on a 9-0 run and eventually emptied the bench with 3:47 to play in the contest.
By CHRIS MACKINDER