In a zone: Pioneer defense shuts out Culver in first half, wins season opener
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ROYAL CENTER –- Madison Blickenstaff, Olivia Brooke, Hailey Cripe and Mackenzie Walker can only get so much rest.
They have another state championship they are trying to win.
Members of the Pioneer volleyball team that won the Class 1A state title two weeks earlier, the foursome combined for 44 points and also put a vice grip on Culver with their 2-3 zone as they bested the Lady Cavaliers 47-11 in their season opener Saturday.
Culver fell to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the Hoosier North.
Cripe came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points. Brooke added 11, and Blickenstaff had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Walker added seven.
Typically, it was Walker and Cripe playing on top of the zone. Cripe was the one often intercepting passes while Brooke or Blickenstaff would handle any Culver player who would position herself at the high post.
The Class 1A, No. 2 Lady Panthers led 30-0 at halftime, and Culver didn’t get their first field goal until Lizzie Pugh’s 3-pointer with 6:20 left.
“Athleticism, toughness, knowing each other, playing the game, knowing that you can lean on the person that’s next to you that they’re covering where they’re supposed to be,” Culver coach Shane Lowry said of Pioneer’s defense. “And they just do it so well. They cover so much ground that it’s incredible.”
Pugh led Culver with seven points, and Grace Sieber had four. Maddie Shedrow, who scored 13 against Elkhart Christian in a win Thursday, was held scoreless.
“The girls did a nice job of rotating out on Shedrow,” Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke said. “She’s a heck of a shooter, so the girls recognized where she was at. Credit our post players too. They did a nice job rotating low when that bottom block had to come out. So I’m excited to see how well they adjusted to that shooter outside, especially our first game getting going here.”
Blickenstaff hit a 15-footer and also took a feed from Walker for a layup in the first quarter, but their other four field goals came in transition after steals. Culver had 30 turnovers for the game.
“Just beating them down the floor,” Blickenstaff said of the hot start. “Our goal is always to go 84 feet each game. We just run. That’s basically all it was.”
The day after winning the state volleyball title, Blickenstaff woke up at 6 a.m. and drove four hours to Circleville, Ohio, where she received an offer to play volleyball at Ohio Christian University. While she was mulling that offer which she ultimately accepted, she and her teammates were getting ready for basketball.
“Nonstop,” Blickenstaff said when asked what the last two weeks have been like. “After volleyball, we just came straight here. We didn’t really take a break. It was just – bam! – so we could get ready for Knox, but then it got moved to next Tuesday. So now we just have extra practice.”
Coach Brooke said he was happy being patient for volleyball season to end.
“I think probably the biggest thing is they go from the volleyball to the basketball, and obviously, basketball is more physical than volleyball, so just getting up and down the floor, the conditioning part of it and just recognizing it’s a different speed of game than volleyball is. … They were in Monday after the state and working hard, so I’m very proud, and I’m excited to see what the season brings.”
Blickenstaff said she was feeling good despite the short time between seasons. There was also a celebratory dinner at Texas Roadhouse.
“I think I’m good right now,” Blickenstaff said. “All of us have always been on the go, so we’re just kind of used to it. … We get really excited to just play anything. We love to compete.”
Pioneer sophomore guard Ashlynn Brooke is expected to be out until after winter break at the earliest after undergoing left knee surgery in September, coach Brooke said. A Division I prospect, Ashlynn Brooke averaged 15 points per game last year while shooting 51 percent from 3-point range and 78 percent from the foul line.
Pioneer’s Macee Baker missed the game with an injury that coach Brooke declined to specify. A 5-4 junior guard, Baker is a returning starter from last year.
“We may get her back in January, or we may not,” coach Brooke said.
Coach Brooke cited junior Maggie Steffel and freshmen Brooklyn Borges and Kylie Attinger as having an impact on the varsity this year.
Pioneer celebrated senior night, and the team’s five seniors – Blickenstaff, Brooke, Walker, Bryleigh Binney and Katelyn Duncan – started.
Pioneer travels to Knox Tuesday. The Lady Redskins are 4-0 and are allowing only 20 points per game. Pioneer’s lone Hoosier North loss last year was to Knox.
Culver sophomore Baleigh Binkley missed her second straight game. While Lowry declined to specify why she was out, he said that she is expected back for Culver’s next game against Lakeland Christian on Dec. 4.
Pioneer 47, Culver 11
CULVER (11) (2-3, 0-1)
Grace Sieber 1 1-2 4, Maddie Shedrow 0 0-0 0, Lizzie Pugh 2 2-2 7, Luci Overmyer 0 0-0 0, Alina Pizur 0 0-0 0, Kaylee Hamilton 0 0-0 0, Meagan Pearl 0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Banks 0 0-0 0, Olivia Compton 0 0-0 0, Avery Garland 0 0-0 0, Maisy McCuen 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 3 3-4 11
PIONEER (47) (1-0, 1-0)
Mackenzie Walker 3 1-1 7, Katelyn Duncan 0 0-0 0, Bryleigh Binney 0 0-0 0, Olivia Brooke 5 1-1 11, Madison Blickenstaff 5 0-0 10, Maggie Steffel 1 0-0 2, Brooklyn Borges 0 1-2 1, Kylie Attinger 0 0-0 0, Hailey Cripe 6 4-7 16
TEAM: 20 7-11 47
Three-point field goals:
Culver 2 (Pugh, Sieber),
Total fouls: Culver 12, Pioneer 7
Turnovers: Culver 30, Pioneer 13
Score by quarters
Culver 0 0 3 8 – 11
Pioneer 15 15 7 10 – 47
Pioneer's season opener vs Culver was also senior night for the Lady Panthers
L-R #40 Katelyn Duncan #13 Bryleigh Binney #20 MacKenzie Walker #21 Madison Blickenstaff #22 Olivia Brooke