ENID, Okla. —
By Ryan Costello
Pioneer’s offense flatlined in the third quarter, and so did its season eight minutes later, as No. 14 Crescent halted the Mustangs’ run of 10 straight trips to the area tournament with a 50-32 regional consolation final win Tuesday at Chisholm’s Paul J. Outhier Field House.
Trailing 20-15 at halftime, Pioneer hit one of nine shots in the third quarter, scoring four in the frame to trail 34-19 entering the fourth, a margin the Mustangs couldn’t dent.
“They do a good job of defending, they really do,” Pioneer coach Brandon Gallagher said. “That was really one of our Achilles’ heels all year. We’ve had these swoons where we go a long time without scoring, and we had one of them again here tonight.”
After shooting 67 percent from three-point range Saturday in an 82-68 upset win against 18th-ranked Hooker, Pioneer’s deep shooting didn’t arrive until the fourth quarter. The Mustangs missed 15 straight attempts to open the game before Blake Gabriel hit Pioneer’s first with 3:31 left in the frame. Pioneer finished 2-for-20 from three, including 0-9 from senior, and top shooter, Nicholas Danker.
“We were in the game, defensively, I thought,” Gallagher said. “When we got behind is when we had to start doing some things that we didn’t really want to do. If we could have made some shots in there, we could have kept doing what we were doing.”
Six-foot-8 sophomore Colby Koontz struggled with a rare matchup against a taller opponent in 6-foot-10 Crescent senior John Moon. Moon scored nine in the third quarter as Crescent grew its cushion against Pioneer. Two Moon baskets gave the Tigers their first two double-digit leads at 27-17 and 29-19, the second of which was never whittled to fewer than 10.
Moon finished six-for-eight from the floor including an and-one dunk through a Koontz foul for 15 points and held Koontz to five points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Pioneer, which finished its season at 14-13, struggled early in the season after graduating all five starters from last year’s state quarterfinal team, losing its first six while Koontz recovered from elbow surgery. The Mustangs won 14 of their final 21 games after Koontz’s return, but couldn’t make an 11th straight area run.
“It’s gone now,” Gallagher said. “It wasn’t from lack of effort. I think they took a lot of pride in (the streak) and we were hoping to be able to continue it. I think it says a lot about some of the kids we’ve had in the past … We were close. We made a run at it.”
“We put a good year together,” said Blake Gabriel, who scored a game-high 25 points. “With how it started out, I’m happy with the way it finished. We would have like to make it to area, but I think this year was a good accomplishment for us building into next year.”
Moon’s 15 led Crescent (21-6), followed by Ty Heiden, who scored all of his 11 points in the second half, and Tristan Lacey, who added nine. The Tigers face Luther in the Area 1 bracket’s consolation quarterfinal round 8 p.m. Friday at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center.
Gabriel’s 25 paced only three Pioneer scorers, followed by Koontz’s five and two from Brandon McNaughton. Pioneer graduates two starters in Denker and defensive specialist Aaron Chain.
“We lose two seniors that really played well for us the last few days, but we’ve got a lot of guys coming back, so we’ll be ready to go back at it again, hopefully.”
“We’re going to miss Aaron and Nicholas, of course,” Gabriel said. “They’re some of my best friends, and I’m going to miss playing with them, but we feel good about next year. We feel like we have a shot to be one of the best teams in the state.”