The Pioneer boys’ basketball season came to an end Monday with an 80-60 loss to Ypsilanti Lincoln in the District opener at Saline High School, in a game that seemed to sum up the Pioneers’ season: sprinkled with moments of brilliance, yet plagued with inconsistency.
Pioneer’s season included wins over the likes of Skyline, Saline, and Westland John Glenn but also had several pitfalls, including multiple blowout loses and a mid-season three-game losing streak.
In Monday’s game, the Pioneers showed flashes of stellar basketball, particularly in the first quarter, but they were unable to translate their strong play for a full 32 minutes.
Pioneer senior Koebe Moore was a force for the Pioneers in the first quarter, helping them build an early 9-7 lead against the defending state champions. He was able to force turnovers, make foul shots, and made a great cut to the basket leading to a layup to score Pioneer’s first points of the contest.
This would be Pioneer’s only lead in the game. Lincoln went on a 12-5 run to close the first quarter, converting Pioneer turnovers into fast-break baskets, including two massive dunks from Lincoln sophomore sensation Emoni Bates, who finished with 24 points in three quarters of action.
Pioneer trailed 19-14 at the end of the quarter.
Pioneer struggled to generate any offense in the second quarter. It did not hit a field goal until Moore made a great reverse layup, snapping a 19-0 Lincoln run. Turnovers continued to be an issue, and Lincoln pounced, outscoring the Pioneers 21-5 in the second quarter to take a 40-19 lead at the half.
Things continued to get worse for Pioneer. Moore’s night came to a premature end halfway through the third quarter when he was assessed a flagrant foul for wrapping up Bates with both arms and throwing him to the ground on a breakaway chance for Bates. The senior finished with a team-high 13 points.
Mac VanRenterghem and Tapio Heinonen were bright spots for Pioneer on a night where not much went right. VanRenterghem, a senior, finished with eight points in his final game for the Pioneers. Heinonen, a junior forward, scored 11 points for Pioneer in a reserve role.
Pioneer was able to cut into Lincoln’s lead in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Railsplitters 21-12 with Bates on the bench. Pioneer was able to get some of its underclassmen playing time, including sophomores Brady Cunningham and Josiah Schaafsma, who each scored in the final quarter.
Lincoln will play rival Ypsilanti in the second semifinal game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at EMU. Huron plays Belleville in the first game at 5 p.m. The finals are at 7 p.m. on Friday at EMU.