By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Blake Gabriel was perfect from the floor and the Pioneer boys basketball team remained perfect since sophomore Colby Koontz’s return, dispatching visitor Dover 67-27 on Tuesday.
Gabriel scored a game- and career-high 23 points on 11-for-11 shooting to lead the Mustangs, who have won two straight since starting 0-6.
Pioneer never trailed, opening the game on an 8-0 run sparked by the first of four three-pointers from Nicholas Denker, who finished with 14. Gabriel scored 12 of his 23 in the second quarter and another Denker three put Pioneer up by double digits for the first time halfway through the frame.
Dover (2-11) never challenged Pioneer’s 34-16 lead at intermission, scoring just 11 points in the final two quarters and trailing by as many as 43 before the final margin.
Koontz missed the opening six games of the season with an elbow injury before making his return to the team Friday against Class A No. 9 Drummond, when Pioneer notched its first win of the season and handed the Bulldogs their first loss after 13 straight wins to start.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore scored 11 points and blocked five shots — one into the concession area — in his 2012-13 home debut.
“I feel good,” Koontz said. “It’s a big relief to be back … It’s been six weeks, and it seems like a year almost. That’s a long time to be sitting there and watching.”
“A lot of people talk about Colby, and he obviously brings a lot to us, but it lets us all be in our normal spots, and now we can play our normal positions,” said Pioneer head coach Brandon Gallagher. “Everybody else, they’re not just standing around watching him, they’re playing well, too, and I think even though early on (during the 0-6 start) wasn’t a lot of fun, it may have helped us in the long run.”
Gabriel, who previously had played Koontz’s role, took advantage of the extra space when defenders left him one-on-one in the post, taking feeds from Koontz on backdoor cuts throughout the game.
“They had to suck up on Colby, so I had a lot of room to work down there on the baseline,” said Gabriel, whose previous career high was 17 points. “That’s why I scored so many points, because Colby took a lot of the attention.”
The result marks the Mustangs’ first home victory of the year in a building accustomed to watching wins, most recently during Pioneer’s 26-3 run in 2011-12.
Sage Lamunyon scored all seven of his points after halftime and Jerry Green added four in a reserve role for the Mustangs, who return to play Thursday in the Wheat Capital Tournament’s opening round at Chisholm High School against Alva, which improved its record to 7-2 Tuesday with a 67-45 win over Blackwell.
The Goldbugs are ranked No.10 in Class 2A.
“We’ve got a tough weekend coming up,” Gallagher said. “Everyone you play there is good.”
Pioneer 50, Dover 32 (G)
The Lady Mustangs nearly doubled-up visiting Dover in the second half Tuesday, coasting late to match last season’s four-win total, 50-32.
Courtney Vaughn scored seven of her season-high 14 in the final quarter, keeping Dover at arm’s length to seal the win, pulling the Lady Mustangs to an even 4-4 and matching the team’s success from last season, when Pioneer’s girls finished 4-18.
“It feels good,” said Lady Mustangs head coach Slade Young. “I really feel like we’ve really improved from where we were last year. We’re way further ahead, and we’ve got a long way to go.”
Dover scored six straight points in the second quarter to pull within 18-17, but Pioneer answered with a 5-1 run that marked the last time the Lady Longhorns were within striking distance. Pioneer outscored Dover (4-9) by nearly double in the final two quarters, outpacing the Lady Longhorns, 27-14.
“The main thing for us was just energy,” Young said. “We went into halftime and made one or two adjustments, but the first half, we just didn’t have the energy we had our last one against Drummond.”
Shelby Flavell scored 12 points, and Baylee Koontz, Lexsie Mann, and Carli Woolsey each added seven for the Lady Mustangs, who play in the opening round of the Wheat Capital Tournament Thursday against Kingfisher (1-4, unranked in 3A).
“I was hoping we’d been more consistent,” Young said about his team going into the tournament. “It’s been a bit up and down, but we’ll take the win.”