While standout juniors Drew Lowder and Kasean Pryor may grab many of the headlines, the Pioneers are far from a two-person act and the so-called supporting actors stole the show Friday night as they played key roles in their dramatic come-from-behind win over visiting Huron.
The Pioneers scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and finished on a 12-0 run to rally for a 61-51 victory in the final SEC regular-season game for both schools.
This time, the supporting cast got the headlines.
Pioneer had several players step up and make huge baskets at big points of the game – either to keep the Pioneers within striking distance or by adding to the run that eventually put them in the lead in the fourth quarter.
Pioneer Coach Rich Marion said Aidan Wright was the difference maker in the fourth quarter. The junior made 3 of 4 shots and scored eight of his nine points in the fourth quarter.
“Aidan was huge,” Marion said. “He had to sit out the first seven games of the year and he just keeps getting better and better and better. He attacked the rim at the right time and he can catch and shoot the ball. He’s a very good athlete and crashed the glass and got us a couple extra possessions as well.”
Another player stepping up was Jacob Williams, who had five points including a big triple in the final quarter. The senior made 6 of 7 shots for the game and finished with 14 points.
“He made a couple of big shots for us,” Marion. “He was another player who was huge in the fourth quarter for us.”
Lowder had 14 points (10 in the final quarter) and Pryor scored 10. Senior Jack Fitzgerald also had a big game with eight points.
The “team win” was nice to see and well earned, Marion says.
“We’ve had a lot to battle through with injuries and there have been times where we haven’t had 10 guys at practice,” he said. “We don’t take the peddle off, and we go hard for two hours in practice. I’m just glad that all that work and grinding they’ve been doing is paying off. And they earned this win.”
The win didn’t come easy – it never does in these city-rivalry games.
“We have been playing really well offensively; defensively, has been hit or miss,” Marion said. “We struggled. They had a great plan as a team and Lewis Willis did a great job on Drew Lowder. Give Huron credit. When you struggle offensively it’s not all on you and the way they played us was a big part of why we struggled. We were bad offensively in the first half and not particularly good defensively either.”
Pioneer’s defense often generates its offense. They only gave up 28 points in the first half but they weren’t generating anything for the offense. “We weren’t rushing them into bad shots or turning them over. Give them credit. They walk that ball up and move it and share it,” Marion said.
“We played well against Skyline and I think our guys came in here ready to get over the hump and get a quality win against a quality opponent. When we came out and got behind they were like, ‘this isn’t what we thought would be happening.’ It took us a good quarter and a half to get us out of that mentality. We finally did. We got enough stops in the second half and Drew started to make a couple shots.”
Pioneer warms up for Districts with a game against a very good Southfield Christian team on Tuesday and then play at Dexter on Thursday. The Dreadnaughts are one of the better teams in the SEC White Division.
The Pioneers open Districts on Monday, March 5 against Skyline in the first of two first-round games that night at Skyline. The Eagles are undefeated on the season, including two regular-season wins over the Pioneers.
Marion and the Pioneers have a week to get ready for the biggest game of the season.
“We have to get better defensively,” he said. “I think our offense will get better and we are trending in the right direction on offense. We have to look at some things and figure out the best ways to adjust to what a defense is trying to do to us. But we need to play better defensively. We still don’t defend the paint well enough, we are often late to help and for us to take that next step it has to come at that end of the floor.”