In the final minute of the third quarter, Pioneer’s Koebe Moore drove to the basket, spun around a defender and dished of a beautiful pass to Christopher Holmes who converted the layup into a 44-39 lead for the host Pioneers.
Holmes started the scoring in the fourth quarter with a layup to give the hosts a 46-39 lead in their showdown Friday night with crosstown rival Skyline in an SEC boys’ basketball matchup of heavyweights.
The junior center came off the bench and scored six points, grabbed some big rebounds and really provided a spark, if not the turning point in what ended up a 65-55 win for the Pioneers. He helped take a small lead and stretch it to seven and the Pioneers never looked back.
All this from a player who was cut from the basketball team as a freshman and as a sophomore. Perseverance and determination must be in his DNA as is the love of the game.
“I just love playing basketball,” said Holmes after his big night. “Yeah, I was cut my first two years so this is my first year playing for Pioneer. But I just wanted to keep playing because I love basketball with all my heart. I just worked hard to get better.”
Holmes said part of his improvement plan included losing weight and adding muscle and just playing basketball.
“I wanted to get in better shape and better condition so I could run the court,” he said.
After he made the team, Holmes used his same approach that got him on the roster to get himself on the floor.
“I just worked really hard in practice and tried to earn playing time,” he said. “I didn’t play for two years so I was rusty. But I worked on shot selection, rebounding and playing defense.”
Holmes admits to being a little nervous facing crosstown rival Skyline in front of a packed gym. But once he got on the floor he got down to business and was a big factor in the game.
“I felt like I had something prove,” he said. “They (Skyline) have players I know and they knew I got cut two years in a row. So I wanted to prove that I can play. I was happy with how I did but there is more work to do.”
Holmes also plays football for the Pioneers and was one of the team’s top defensive lineman this past season.
Even with all the marquee players on the floor Friday night, including two heading to Division 1 schools next year, Pioneer Coach Rich Marion wasn’t surprised to hear questions about his backup center.
“For the past two months Chris Holmes has been earning that chance on the floor every day in practice,” he said. “He has great energy and enthusiasm. He’s a great teammate who works really hard. I probably should have went to him before this point in the season. He earned it.”
And he earned it in a big game with a big spotlight in front of a big crowd.
“Some of the offensive boards he got tonight he does every day in practice,” Marion said. “He was a big contributor (Friday).”