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  • Val T.

‘Defense, defense, defense:’ Pioneer survives Argos rally, wins in OT behind McKaig’s 17

Stults scores 21 for Dragons, including late game-tying trey in regulation


Sports Editor, RTC

Micah Rans

ARGOS — Drew McKaig scored 17 points, and Micah Rans scored the go-ahead basket in overtime off a McKaig assist as the Pioneer boys basketball team held off an Argos rally from a 17-point halftime deficit to win 49-46 at Phil Weybright Gymnasium Saturday.

Brayden Erickson added eight points, Rans had seven, and Lucas Perry and Noah Miller had six points each for the Panthers, who bounced back after a 16-point home loss to LaVille Friday to improve to 2-4.

Pioneer survived despite making just nine of 24 free throws, including just four of 10 in the overtime.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure what their state of mind would be, but it’s my job to keep it positive and say we’re going to get the momentum right back,” Pioneer coach Darren McKaig said. “We’ll try to score first, and our mantra is defense, defense, defense. So we’re not going to worry about if we miss shots on the offensive end or have a few turnovers. We’re just going to get back and play defense and make it hard on them and hopefully get some easy layups out of it.”

Luke Stults had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Argos (2-3). He outscored the entire Pioneer team 17-16 in the second half, and he made the game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation that evened the game at 39. The 3-pointer was just his second of the season.

Stults was also the point man on top of Argos’ trapping defense in the halfcourt which led to the rally.

But he did not score in overtime.

Sean Richard also had a double-double for the Dragons with 11 points and 12 rebounds, but the 11 points were a season-low.

“Luke’s working hard to improve, and I think him and Sean both can pick it up another step for us to progress where we need to be as a team,” Argos coach Jason Breden said. “So all in all, he’s headed in the right direction, but I think he knows he can continue to improve, and he has plenty of ceiling left.”

Rans’ basket in the first minute of overtime gave Pioneer the lead for good at 41-39. Argos’ Mekhi Austin was called for an intentional foul with 2:49 left on Rylahn Toloza, and Toloza split a pair of free throws to increase the lead to three.

Rans then found a cutting McKaig for a layup.

A no-look Richard assist led to a Kenyan Beldon trey that cut the lead to 44-42, but Pioneer broke the Argos press, and Toloza found Lucas Perry for a layup to increase the lead to 46-42.

At 47-43, McKaig missed a pair from the line, but Zhayne Hellums, who contributed to the Argos rally with two second-half 3-pointers, dropped a pass out of bounds.

It was one of four Argos turnovers in the overtime and 21 in the game.

“Unforced mistakes and decision making,” Breden said when asked to characterize the turnovers. “Guys just not catching passes and then going out of bounds. Moving screens at inopportune times. Just unforced mistakes, you know. … Any team can’t have those and win.”

Beldon, Austin and Hellums are freshmen, and junior forward Hayden Hensler is also getting extensive varsity minutes for the first time.

“There’s two ways we can look at this,” Breden said. “I’m sure people say, ‘Well, they’ve got a young team, and those are going to happen,’ but if this team’s hungry to win, we’ve got to find a way to clean those things up.”

McKaig sunk two free throws with 5.5 seconds left to make it a six-point game.

“I think it’s really going to help us as a team under pressure,” Drew McKaig said. “And we understand what it feels like to lose a lead now, and we should be impressed with ourselves that we kept scoring with their pressure. They hit a good shot at the end to send it to overtime, but we really came out hard, and we beat them in overtime.”

Pioneer played a 2-3 zone with coach McKaig saying that limiting Richard, a senior point guard who scored 26 points the previous night in a win over South Bend Career Academy, was a focus.

The defense flummoxed Argos, and Miller and Erickson each hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter as the lead expanded to 23-6.

Pioneer often employed a four-guard lineup with McKaig, Erickson, Toloza and Luke Blackman. Rans, a 5-9 sophomore, is a fifth guard that coach McKaig brings off the bench.

With those guards, Pioneer only had two turnovers in the first half.

“I want to play like guards, have four point guards out there and make other teams that are a little bit slower afraid of our guards,” coach McKaig said. “It’s always hard to play against a bunch of guards. So rather than us being afraid of big guys, I want other guys to be afraid of our quickness.”

Pioneer 49, Argos 46 (OT)

PIONEER (49) (2-4)

Luke Blackman 0 0-0 0, Drew McKaig 6 5-13 17, Rylahn Toloza 1 1-4 3, Brayden Erickson 3 0-0 8, Lucas Perry 2 2-5 6, Micah Rans 3 1-2 7, Mason Shaver 1 0-0 2, Noah Miller 2 0-0 6

TEAM: 18 9-24 49

ARGOS (46) (2-3)

Kenyan Beldon 2 0-0 5, Meki Austin 1 0-0 3, Sean Richard 4 3-4 11, Hayden Hensler 0 0-0 0, Luke Stults 8 4-8 21, Zhayne Hellums 2 0-0 6

TEAM: 17 7-12 46

Three-point field goals:

Pioneer 4 (Erickson 2, Miller 2),

Argos 5 (Hellums 2, Austin, Beldon, Stults)

Total fouls: Pioneer 15, Argos 18

Fouled out: Beldon (ARG), :30.1, OT

Intentional foul: Austin (ARG), 2:49, OT

Turnovers: Pioneer 12, Argos 21

Score by quarters

Pioneer 9 14 9 7 10 49

Argos 4 2 18 15 7 46

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