By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
POND CREEK, Okla. —
Zach Rayner and Kade Tracy each had 12 points and the Class A No. 10 Pond Creek-Hunter Panthers secured at least a share of the Skeltur Conference championship, blanketing Pioneer in the second half en route to a 48-40 win Thursday in Pond Creek.
Pioneer (12-6), which entered the game with five straight wins, looked to be headed for a sixth in a row after leading by as much as eight points in the first quarter. The Mustangs took a 17-9 advantage on eight points from forward Blake Gabriel and seven from center Colby Koontz in the frame, backing down or scoring through a much smaller PC-Hunter front court.
But the size advantage wouldn’t last.
Tracy hit his first of two buzzer-beating threes on the night to cap the first period and pull the Panthers (15-2) to within 17-12, and Rayner hit a three and a scored on a driving layup to push the Pond Creek-Hunter run to 8-0 and level the score at 17-17. Tracy hit another three to beat the halftime horn to even the score at 27 entering the third.
Jevan Overton scored, Rayner hit another three and assisted on a Trenton Grimes layup to complete a 7-0 run in the first 1:28 of the second half.
Then PC-Hunter went to its ground game.
The Panthers controlled the ball for the next three minutes, interrupted only once on a Sage Lamunyon steal that was taken back by Tracy before the Mustangs could cross half court.
The Panthers had two offensive rebounds during the marathon possession, limiting Pioneer to one shot in the first six minutes of the third quarter, with four turnovers over the same stretch.
“I thought they played a lot harder than we did,” said Pioneer head coach Brandon Gallagher. “They killed us on the boards, which shouldn’t happen. They played with a lot more passion. They guarded harder than we did, they moved better on offense, they valued the ball better than we did.”
“Pioneer’s a great team, but we really wanted this one bad tonight,” Tracy said. “They’re still a good team, but it was a big win for us … Coach is always on us: value the ball and it’ll win you ballgames.”
The Panthers retreated to their 2-3 zone in the second half, doubling Koontz and cutting off the Mustangs’ access to the 6-foot-9 junior. Instead of passing to their go-to on the post, the Mustangs were dared to shoot threes and couldn’t convert, hitting just two of 12 second-half tries.
The Mustangs went 0-for-6 from the floor for the rest of the third, finishing the frame scoreless and trailing 35-27 entering the final quarter. Rayner posted up Gabriel and scored to start the fourth to give the Panthers a 37-27 lead that only fell below seven points once. Koontz lept for a loose ball and hit a back-cutting Gabriel for an easy finish that pulled Pioneer back to within 38-32 with 3:23 left, but PC-Hunter scored the next four points, a pair of Overton free throws pushing the lead back to 44-34 with just over a minute left.
Overton had three of the Panthers’ eight offensive rebounds, a key contributor to the Panthers’ 29-22 rebound advantage despite being by far the smaller team.
“Jevan Overton gave us some size, and he was able to get in there and get a hand in the passing lane, guard Colby Koontz, and that freed Zach up to guard Gabriel and get rebounds,” Jones said.
Koontz finished with game highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds, but struggled from the floor, shooting 6-for-17. Gabriel had 12 points and six rebounds for the Mustangs, who visit Chisholm today, when the Longhorns will try to break a four-game losing streak. Grimes and Eric Galliton had nine points for the Panthers, who host Oklahoma Bible Academy on Monday.
The Panthers will be undisputed Skeltur champs if Dover (4-2) beats Drummond (5-1) tonight. If Drummond wins, it would share the title, but PC-Hunter did win the head-to-head matchup.
Lady Panthers nab fifth straight crown
They’ve looked the part all season, but the Class A No. 4 Lady Panthers made it official on Thursday night, clinching the Skeltur regular season title for the fifth consecutive season with a 68-42 win over Pioneer in Pond Creek.
Tiarra Davis had 21 points for the second straight game for the Lady Panthers, and Jade Jones added 19 to push PC-Hunter to 20-0 on the season. Both teams entered the title-clinching game with perfect records in Skeltur play, but the Lady Panthers quickly put the game out of reach, leading 28-10 after one quarter, and 43-15 by halftime.
Andi Simunek scored a team-high 17 points for Pioneer (10-9), which visits Chisholm today with the Lady Longhorns having lost three of four. Rylie Halcomb added 13 for the Lady Panthers, who host OBA on Monday.