BOYS BB: Pioneer's stall ball not enough to stop Wabash

Mar. 4—WALTON — The Pioneer Panthers attempted to slow down high scoring Wabash with stall ball on Friday night.

The Panthers slowed down the Apaches but they could not stop their eventual march to a sectional championship. Wabash defeated Pioneer 40-22 to advance to Saturday night's final at the Class 2A Lewis Cass Sectional.

The Panthers' stalling tactics led to a low scoring game. Wabash led 10-2 after one, 14-4 at halftime and 25-12 after three.

"Even though the beginning really didn't work out in our favor, we needed to hit a few more shots and we needed Wabash to miss a few shots," Pioneer coach Darren McKaig said. "But still going into halftime only down 10 may not seem great but it did keep us within striking distance at halftime. We were 28-point underdogs, I think, so we were just trying to stretch the game out as long as we could and stay in it.

"Their firepower was more than we had. They're shooting 40% from 3 and a couple guys are shooting close to 90% from the free throw line. Our numbers are nowhere near that. So we had to do something kind of extreme to be able to compete with them."

The Apaches made their first five shots of the game to take a 12-2 lead a minute into the second quarter. But Pioneer was still able to stay within 14-4 at halftime.

The Panthers' stalling tactics allowed the Apaches only 10 offensive possessions in the first half. But they had 13 possessions in the third quarter and were again efficient in building a 25-12 lead. They continued to pull away in the fourth to go on to win by 18 points.

McKaig thought he had good personnel to pull off a stall ball upset. But Wabash was a tough opponent to attempt it against.

"That's why we decided to do it because we thought we had some quickness advantage maybe not with all their guys but if you just have an advantage with a couple guys, we tried to isolate our best matchups out there," McKaig said. "It worked to a certain extent. We needed to hit a few more shots in the lane and needed to hit a few more corner 3s but really I felt like it was a good plan for us.

"I felt like Micah Rans, Drew [McKaig], Rylahn [Toloza] and Brayden [Erickson], they've all been handling the ball fairly well. We probably dribble the ball more safely than we pass the ball sometimes, so that worked out for us too."

Darren McKaig was a senior player for the Panthers in 1997 when they nearly pulled off a big sectional upset of Caleb Springer and Logansport in the final year of single-class basketball, when the Berries came away with a 17-13 win.

"We had a similar team that was a little shorter and quicker," McKaig said. "Logansport had the state's leading scorer and some other big guys. It almost worked there. We actually had a shot to win that game at the end. That's what we were hoping for here. We really needed to get the lead. We were going to try to get the lead to start with and then it would have even been more effective.

"If you have defenders on the court who aren't as quick, you're kind of in trouble if a team does that against you. ... It wasn't quite as effective against Wabash because they were more of a perimeter-oriented team anyway."

McKaig added that stall tactics remain popular in sectional play across the state, at least until a shot clock is implemented. Pioneer recently had shot clocks installed in its gym with its recent renovation to future-proof if Indiana adds a shot clock rule.

"People do this kind of stuff all over, especially down south more so," McKaig said.

Drew McKaig led the Panthers with seven points. Noah Miller had six points on a pair of 3-pointers. Lucas Perry and Luke Blackman added three points apiece and Erickson chipped in a free throw.

Trevor Daughtry scored 13 points to lead the Apaches. Alexander Dinkins had nine and Izaak Wright and Grant Ford had seven apiece.

It was the final game for Pioneer seniors Drew McKaig, Toloza, Erickson and Blackman.

"This senior group has been special to me," coach McKaig said. "I've been coaching them ever since they were in second and third grade. You never want to see it end but it's been really fulfilling. It doesn't seem like we've been doing it a long time together. It was a great group to be with. I think they ended with some good positive notes this season. It's been a good run for us."

Pioneer is likely headed back to Class A next season under the IHSAA's new classification rules.

Wabash went on to defeat Lewis Cass 65-39 in the championship game Saturday night.