• Val T.

Back-up generator: McKaig, Sweet lead Pioneer past South Newton and into sectional final

Panthers commit season-low 4 turnovers in 20-point win; up next: No. 5 North White


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

WOLCOTT — Reserves Drew McKaig and Caleb Sweet combined for 24 points to lead the Pioneer boys basketball team to a 55-35 win over South Newton in a Class 1A, Sectional 52 semifinal at Tri-County Saturday.

McKaig scored 13, including a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter. Sweet had nine of his 11 in the second half.

Gavin Clem added nine points, and Christian Scott had eight for Pioneer, who improved to 9-15.

Pioneer started the season 2-10, but they have gone 7-5 since.

Pioneer committed a season-low four turnovers, including just one in the first half as they built a 27-19 lead.

They will next play No. 5 North White at 7 p.m. Saturday in the sectional final. North White topped Caston 63-59 in the first semifinal. North White will enter the game on a 15-game winning streak. One of those wins was a 68-40 win over Pioneer on Feb. 19 in their regular season meeting.

Pioneer is seeking their first sectional title since 2013.

Already leading 33-22, Pioneer went on a 17-2 run covering the third and fourth quarters. South Newton had a field goal drought in the second half that lasted 9:27 as the Panthers pulled away.

South Newton made two 3-pointers against Pioneer’s zone defenses, both in the fourth quarter. But by the time of the first, they were down by 26 points.

Cy Sammons led South Newton (9-14), who had four senior starters, with 13 points.

Pioneer showed off both a 3-2 and a 2-3 zone. They are allowing just 30.3 points per game during their current three-game winning streak.

“We were able to see what they were doing,” Pioneer coach Darren McKaig said. “They were trying to get to the rim, trying to drive around us. Number 2 (Sammons) isn’t much of a shooter, but he can finish really well at the rim. And they were so determined to beat us that we had to have that same determination to stop them, and so that’s what we tried to do.”

The big Pioneer second-half run started with a drive down the pipe for a layup from Scott. Then Sweet drove for a bucket, and McKaig worked the back door and scored off a Brock Robinson feed.

Sammons hit two free throws, but Scott found Sweet for a layup, and Sweet scored in transition to make it 43-24 going into the fourth quarter.

“McKaig’s main game plan in most of our games is to get transition buckets and get the ball moving up the court and get ahead of the defense,” Sweet said.

A Sweet free throw, another Sweet transition bucket, a Jacob Zeigler layup and a McKaig transition bucket after a steal and nifty pass fake made it 50-24.

Meanwhile, Pioneer protected the ball and executed their offense. Robinson, a 5-7 senior, is Pioneer’s primary ballhandler.

“That was our whole pregame focus,” coach McKaig said. “The guys sometimes over-complicate this. If you just move the ball, ball-fake, make sure they're there, be athletic, put them on the run, then everything becomes easier. But don’t turn the ball over. That was a focus.”

Solano’s turnaround in the post with three seconds left in the first quarter put Pioneer ahead for good at 11-9.

McKaig had two treys within the first minute-and-a-half of the second quarter as the lead reached 17-11. An off-balance putback from McKaig led to a 3-point play made it 22-13, and a Clem triple got the lead to double digits at 25-15.

Clem hit two more 3s in the first three minutes of the second half as the lead reached 12.

“Huge,” coach McKaig said of the 3-point makes from Drew McKaig and Clem. “We’ve realized watching so much game film all year that the top-level teams hit 3s for the most part. Not too many 6-8 guys walking around here. If we want to compete, we’ve got to kind of lean that way. And so we encourage them to shoot, to be confident shooters, but to be unselfish. Let’s find the best shot and let’s knock it down.”

Pioneer 55, South Newton 35

SOUTH NEWTON (35) (9-14)

Korbin Cruz 1 0-0 2, Kayden Cruz 3 1-2 8, Garrett Sammons 0 0-0 0, Cy Sammons 5 3-5 13, Will Smart 1 0-0 2, Dawson Cadle 1 0-0 3, Chayse Stillabower 0 0-0 0, Evyn Krug 0 0-0 0, Hayden Bacewic 1 1-1 3, Conner Latta 1 0-0 2, Luke Hoskins 1 0-0 2

TEAM: 14 5-8 35

PIONEER (55) (9-15)

Brock Robinson 1 0-0 3, Gavin Clem 3 0-0 9, Christian Scott 3 2-4 8, Oscar Solano 3 0-0 6, Jacob Zeigler 1 0-0 2, Luke Blackman 0 0-0 0, Drew McKaig 5 1-3 13, Rylahn Toloza 1 0-0 2, Lucas Perry 0 0-0 0, Brayden Erickson 0 0-0 0, Caleb Sweet 5 1-2 11, Cameron Couch 0 1-2 1

TEAM: 22 5-11 55

Three-point field goals:

South Newton 2 (Kayden Cruz, Cadle),

Pioneer 6 (Clem 3, McKaig 2, Robinson)

Total fouls: South Newton 12, Pioneer 11

Turnovers: South Newton 9, Pioneer 4

Score by quarters

South Newton 9 10 5 11 – 35

Pioneer 11 16 16 12 – 55


Watch Full game Here:

https://www.ihsaatv.org/pioneertv/?B=365743



Caleb Sweet Drew McKaig


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