The Pioneer girls’ basketball team rolled into their Regional semifinal game on Monday night with an impressive resume. They had already won the SEC Red Division title and they had already won a District trophy – ending a long run of close calls for the Pioneer basketball program.
But when they walked onto the floor to face the talented Brighton Bulldogs in the second of two Regional games at Skyline High School, the Pioneers were not thinking about the past but rather focused on the present so they could keep playing in the future.
Pioneer head coach Tyrone Hicks made it clear to his team before the opening tip that there was more to accomplish this season.
“I told them that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them,” Hicks said.
The Pioneers played like they weren’t ready to say goodbye to their coach. Instead, Pioneer said goodbye to Brighton with an impressive 42-35 victory to move onto to the “future.”
The Pioneers (20-4) will play Wayne Memorial at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in a Regional Final at Skyline HS. The Zebras defeated Farmington Hills Mercy 53-33 in the other semifinal game at Skyline. Wayne Memorial is 23-2 on the season.
“We could have looked at this game like we were playing with house money,” Hicks said. “And in a way I told them they were because I wanted them to loosen up. I thought we played too stressful of a game against Saline (in Friday’s District final). I wanted them to have fun and enjoy the moment. I think that helped us play better.”
Hicks saw film of Brighton and knew there were challenges to be met, including stopping Brighton’s talented center/forward Sophie Dzeikan. “We knew she was going to be difficult to stop but we did a really good job defensively,” Hicks said. “Holding her to two points was big for us.”
Hicks said Brighton’s guards were aggressive and physical, causing his young backcourt to turn the ball over at times. Pioneer had 12 turnovers in the first half alone. But eventually they adjusted to the pace of the game and played better in the second half.
“We knew we had to stop them from getting to the basket and we had to rebound,” Hicks said. “I thought we did both those things well.”
The Bulldogs turned those early turnovers by Pioneer into a 10-7 lead after the first quarter. But the Pioneers outscored Brighton 12-6 in the second quarter to take a 19-16 lead into halftime.
Pioneer outscored Brighton 10-7 in the third quarter for a 29-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Pioneer won the fourth quarter 13-12.
The Pioneers had balanced scoring in the win. Freshman guard Mya Hicks led the way with 12 points, including two triples in the first half. Corine Burgard and Asaria Turman each scored 10 points and Lauren DeWolf and Whitney Gallagher each scored four.
The Pioneers now turn their attention from Bulldogs to Zebras as they try to extend the future even longer.
“They have exceptional athletes who create turnovers and turn them into easy baskets,” Hicks said of Wayne Memorial. “We have to take care of the basketball.”
Hicks likes his team’s chances because he likes his team.
“They are resilient,” he said. “I think we will be up for the task. This team always finds a way to get the job done. They make the adjustments we ask them to make and that’s evident by how better we play in the second half.”
Hicks is clearly not ready to say goodbye.
The winner of the Skyline Regional (5) will play in a state quarterfinal game at 5 p.m. on March 19 at West Bloomfield HS against the winner of the Dearborn Heights Crestwood-Temperance Bedford Regional (6) final.