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  • Val T.

McKaig powers Pioneer past West Central in regular season finale

Perry, Erickson also score in double figures


Sports Editor, RTC

Drew McKaig

ROYAL CENTER — Drew McKaig scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his final home game at The Cage, and The Pioneer boys basketball team held West Central top scorer Bryce Nannenga to four points in a 58-35 rout of the visiting Trojans Saturday.

Lucas Perry added 13 points, and Brayden Erickson had 11 for Pioneer, which finished 9-13.

Jayden Miller hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 21 for West Central (3-19).

Nannenga, a 6-2 junior forward, came in averaging 19 points per game, and he scored his 1,000th career point earlier in the season. He hit two free throws and scored on a transition layup in the first quarter but did not score after that.

Pioneer went on a 14-0 run covering the first and second quarters to take a 26-12 lead, and they led by double digits the rest of the way. The lead reached 26 points in the fourth quarter after freshmen Brodie Howard and Lane Weldy dropped in 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter.

Pioneer was conscientious of where Nannenga was in their 2-3 zone, and they held the entire West Central team without a field goal in the second quarter.

“The guys have done that a few times this year,” Pioneer coach Darren McKaig said. “So we kind of knew how to do it, and they were confident that they could stop him. But usually when that does happen, somebody else does end up scoring some points, but we wanted to make somebody else beat us tonight.”

Offensively, already leading 13-12, Perry started the second quarter spurt with a lefty floater in the land off a drive from the top of the key. McKaig hit two free throws. Perry put back his own miss and was fouled and converted the free throw for a 3-point play.

McKaig hit two more free throws to make it 22-12, which led to a West Central timeout. Micah Rans scored in transition off a Perry assist. Then McKaig scored on a driving layup.

Pioneer had another 14-2 run in the third quarter, which included a driving 3-point play from Erickson, a 3-pointer from senior Luke Blackman and a quick bucket off a flash in the post from freshman Shiloh Rine off a McKaig assist.

Pioneer went 5-2 in February after starting the season 4-11. That included road wins over North Judson and Culver and a home win over Knox.

Perry and Erickson have picked up their offensive productivity to complement the production they get from Drew McKaig.

“Every team needs three scorers in double figures, it seems like,” coach McKaig said when asked about Perry. “He’s one guy who has stepped up. He’s handled the ball stronger and better. At the beginning of the season when he tried to be more aggressive, he was turning the ball over, but he’s figured out how to stop a little sooner and just knows not to force it. He’s really done a great job lately.”

This marked the final home game for seniors McKaig, Erickson, Rylahn Toloza and Luke Blackman. Pioneer was coming off a 52-32 loss at home to Tri-County on Friday.

“I think the seniors especially cared a lot,” Erickson said. “Because last night was senior night, it was supposed to be a big game, and it just didn’t go our way. We didn’t hit as many shots and had a lot of turnovers. I think we were just looking for a big ‘W’ tonight. I think we were pretty happy with what happened.”

They will begin sectional play at 6 p.m. Friday at Lewis Cass against either Wabash or Rochester.

“We’ve played some good games against better teams,” coach McKaig said. “The common theme is we’ve hit about 10 3s in each of those games. So we know we’re capable. I think this group likes being in a bigger gym and a bigger environment. And Lewis Cass fits that. Hopefully, we can be patient and be strong and then just find that good open shot and knock it down.”

Erickson spoke of how an overtime win at North Judson on Feb. 1 transformed the team’s attitude.

“After that North Judson win, that opened up the whole team’s eyes,” Erickson said. “It made us more confident. Then we played Knox and beat them. It gave us more confidence going into the end of the season. We really thought we were going to win out. It didn’t work out that way, but we liked to end the season with a win.”

Pioneer also won the JV game 39-28.

Pioneer 58, West Central 35

WEST CENTRAL (35) (3-19)

Jayden Miller 6 5-6 21, Brendan Grindstaff 2 0-0 6, Connor Marlatt 0 0-0 0, Addison Huber 1 0-0 2, Bryce Nannega 1 2-2 4, Christian Hughes 0 0-0 0, Zack Boehning 0 0-0 0, Blake Hughes 1 0-0 2, Landon Hughes 0 0-0 0, Malachi Wireman 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 11 7-8 35

PIONEER (58) (9-13)

Micah Rans 3 0-0 6, Drew McKaig 5 5-6 15, Rylahn Toloza 1 0-0 2, Brayden Erickson 4 1-1 11, Lucas Perry 5 1-1 13, Luke Blackman 1 0-0 3, Mason Shaver 0 0-0 0, Lane Weldy 1 0-0 3, Brodie Howard 1 0-0 3, Noah Miller 0 0-0 0, Shiloh Rine 1 0-0 2

TEAM: 22 7-8 58

Three-point field goals:

West Central 6 (Miller 4, Grindstaff 2),

Pioneer 7 (Perry 2, Erickson 2, Blackman, Howard, Weldy)

Total fouls: West Central 11, Pioneer 12

Turnovers: West Central 20, Pioneer 11

Score by quarters

West Central 12 3 8 12 35

Pioneer 13 15 16 14 58

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