Through the first 20 minutes of action on Wednesday night, it looked like crosstown rivals Skyline and Pioneer were in for quite the street fight: a physical, sloppy affair with baskets at a premium and a down-to-the-wire finish at Pioneer High School.
That was until Skyline (3-1) found an extra gear, dominating the late stages of the third quarter with a 14-1 run that propelled the Eagles to a 40-34 victory over crosstown rival Pioneer (0-1).
Skyline head coach Mike Lovelace said he preached playing disciplined basketball at halftime, which fueled the second-half run.
“I feel like at halftime we stressed being disciplined on defense, and we stopped going for a lot of steals that we were in the first half,” Lovelace said. “We tried to play disciplined, pressure the ball, play team defense, and do a better job of rebounding.”
Skyline was led by a balanced scoring attack that saw seven players find the scoresheet. Ashay Arora led the Eagles with eight points. Jack Williams and James Harrison each scored seven for the Eagles. Jermaine Davis also contributed six points, all coming during the run late in the third quarter. Chris Cayton scored five points, all in the fourth quarter.
“Jermaine [Davis] has real nice body control and touch,” Lovelace said. “That was great to see in that stretch where we played great defense.”
During Skyline’s third quarter run that stretched nearly 6 minutes into the early stages of the final quarter, the Eagles dominated on both sides of the ball. Great defense, including multiple steals by Williams that led to transition offense for the Eagles.
Pioneer was led by forward Elijah Klein, who scored a game-high 11 points. Senior guard Aidan Lee added eight points for the Pioneers.
The first quarter saw both teams mostly trade baskets. Skyline took an early 8-3 lead thanks to five straight points from Williams, but the Pioneers answered with an 8-4 run to close the quarter that saw Klein dominate offensively in the post with five points.
Pioneer took the lead in the second quarter in which it limited the Eagles to six points. Pioneer adjusted to Skyline’s press and was able to get several baskets in transition. Skyline got in foul trouble and Pioneer was in the double bonus midway through the second quarter, but the Pioneers missed four free throws in the quarter that could have given them a larger lead.
Pioneer led 21-18 at half.
The Eagles took a 30-24 lead into the final quarter.
Pioneer trailed 32-24 early in the fourth quarter after Skyline’s dominant stretch, but they certainly did not quit. Rasheed Sampson had the hot hand for the Pioneers in the quarter, scoring 4 points to pull them within three. Pioneer, trailing 37-34 in the final two minutes, had a three-point look to tie the game, but the shot came up short, and Huron sealed the game with a foul shot and a layup by Arora.
Lovelace said that despite winning, the team needs to play at a higher level moving forward.
“We did not play well. We played so much better last week, with better flow and poise,” Lovelace said. “We just felt like we could come out here and be undisciplined and win, and it made it really tough. That said, beating Pioneer is always extra good.”
Skyline will have the chance to beat another crosstown rival when it hosts Huron on Friday night, in a rematch of last Saturday’s overtime thriller between the two teams that saw Huron prevail, 57-51. Pioneer hosts Monroe on Friday night.