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  • Val T.

Pioneer turns to man-to-man defense, beats Caston for 2nd time

Brooke, Cripe, Blickenstaff combine for 47; Zimpleman, Williamson combine for 8 treys for Caston


Sports Editor, RTC

FULTON –- The Pioneer girls basketball team is known for playing good zone defense.

Actually, the Pioneer girls basketball team showed against host Caston Tuesday that they

Mackenzie Walker

are known for playing good defense – period.

Olivia Brooke scored 20 points to lead three players in double figures, and the Pioneer defense switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense and held Caston to one field goal and eight points in the second half on their way to a 60-45 win at the Comet Crater.

Hailey Cripe added 17, and Madison Blickenstaff had 10 for Class 1A, No. 7 Pioneer, who improved to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Hoosier North.

Freshman Addison Zimpleman hit five 3-pointers and scored 18 points for Caston (8-3, 2-1). Abby Williamson, who missed Saturday’s win over Triton with an ankle injury, returned and hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter and scored nine.

Isabel Scales, who came in averaging 19 points per game over her last three games, was held to eight.

Zimpleman had Caston’s lone second half field goal, a 3-pointer with 3:36 left in the third quarter that gave Caston a 44-40 lead.

Pioneer then went on a 20-0 run covering the third and fourth quarters to eventually get a lead as big as 16 points.

A Brooke 15-footer off an inbounds pass gave Pioneer the lead for good at 45-44 with 2:41 left in the third. A Brooke short banker off a Blickenstaff assist, a Mackenzie Walker pullup, and another Brooke bucket got the lead to seven at the end of the third.

Brooke hit two free throws and had two assists to Blickenstaff in the fourth quarter. Cripe also nailed a 3-pointer in the fourth.

Caston was held to a Scales free throw in the fourth quarter. It all came after Pioneer switched from a zone – they played both a 1-2-2 and a 2-3 in the first half – to a man-to-man defense.

Hailey Cripe defended Scales.

“We talked about intensity level,” Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke said. “I thought Caston did a really nice job. I thought they brought the intensity level tonight, and we didn’t match it. We couldn’t find shooters out of our 3-2 zone there. And give them credit: They were knocking them down. As the coaching staff and I talked about, ‘What do we do? What do we do?’ Well, obviously go man. … So credit our girls. I thought they stepped up and did a nice job taking that challenge.”

Caston coach Josh Douglass said fatigue and depth were factors. Though Williamson and Smith were both available, both were coming off ankle injuries and hadn’t practiced much in preparation for the game.

“As I told the girls, we used up so much energy in the first half that we couldn’t match that same energy for some reason,” Douglass said. “Once they made that little run there, we just couldn’t recover. We were gassed. That’s what I told them.”

Pioneer led 17-15 after one quarter with Cripe and Brooke scoring five points each and Brooklyn Borges hitting a 3-pointer offsetting 11 combined points from Scales and Zimpleman.

Caston went bombs away in the second quarter. Williamson hit three 3-pointers in a two-minute span, and Zimpleman also hit three 3s in the quarter, including 3s on back-to-back possessions.

When Clingler recovered a loose ball and laid it in, Caston had their biggest lead at 37-25.

But Pioneer closed the half on a 7-0 run, which Borges capped with a banked 3-pointer on a pick-and-pop.

In the JV game, Caston defeated Pioneer 29-24. Mikayla Kinser and Annie Harsh had eight points each, Macee Hinderlider had six, Kinzie Mollenkopf had four, and Emma Kay had three. Mollenkopf had a team-high six rebounds.

Kylie Attinger and Bryleigh Binney had seven points each for Pioneer. Adeline Cripe had six, Gracie Hopper had two, and Allison McGrew and Katelyn Duncan had one each.

Pioneer notes

  • The Lady Panthers have beaten Caston seven straight times. Pioneer is 9-1 against Caston since Jeff Brooke became coach.

  • Pioneer will travel to Triton Saturday. The JV game will start at 1 p.m. and will be limited to two quarters. The varsity game will start at approximately 2 p.m.

  • Pioneer drew Twin Lakes in the first round of the eight-team Twin Lakes Invitational. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29. Pioneer will also play twice on Dec. 30. Their first game will be against either Rochester or Kankakee Valley. North White, Crown Point, Clinton Prairie and Logansport are the other four teams in the field.

Caston notes

  • The 45 points were the most points Caston has scored in a loss since a 54-47 loss to Tri-County in the 2019 sectional. It’s also the most points Caston has scored in a game against Pioneer since a 52-47 win on Dec. 13, 2016.

  • Regarding fatigue, Douglass said he asked his players in the locker room after the game what went first. “The legs,” his players responded.

“It wasn’t the legs,” Douglass told them. “It was the mind. … We’ve got to figure out a way to fight through that mentally.”

Pioneer 60, Caston 45

PIONEER (60) (4-3, 2-1)

Mackenzie Walker 3 0-0 6, Hailey Cripe 5 6-7 17, Brooklyn Borges 2 1-2 7, Olivia Brooke 8 4-7 20, Madison Blickenstaff 5 0-1 10, Crystabelle Blickenstaff 0 0-0 0, Maggie Steffel 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 23 11-17 60

CASTON (45) (8-3, 2-1)

Isabel Scales 2 4-6 8, Addison Zimpleman 6 1-2 18, Bailey Harness 0 0-0 0, Abby Williamson 3 0-0 9, Jordan Clingler 3 0-1 6, Layne Oliver 0 0-0 0, Maddi Smith 1 2-2 4, Brianna Yarber 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 15 7-11 45

Three-point field goals:

Pioneer 3 (Borges 2, Cripe),

Caston 8 (Zimpleman 5, Williamson 3)

Total fouls: Pioneer 11, Caston 15

Turnovers: Pioneer 15, Caston 20

Score by quarters

Pioneer 17 15 19 9 60

Caston 15 22 7 1 45

JV: Caston 29, Pioneer 24

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