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  • Val T.

Runaway: Pioneer beats Rochester down the floor, wins by 32

Brooke scores 23, Cripe, Walker also score in double figures


Sports Editor

ROYAL CENTER –- You better run if you want to compete with the Pioneer girls basketball team.

They are not going to slow down to wait for you.

Mackenzie Walker

If visiting Rochester learned that lesson Wednesday, they learned it too late.

Olivia Brooke scored 13 of her game-high 23 points in the first quarter, and Hailey Cripe and Mackenzie Walker also scored in double figures to lead the Class 1A, No. 6 Lady Panthers to a 66-34 win over the Lady Zs Wednesday.

Cripe hit four 3-pointers and added 18 points. Walker, encouraged to shoot by coach Jeff Brooke, scored a career-high 12.

Pioneer scored the first seven points and led wire to wire. They led 21-7 after one quarter and then went on another 12-0 run covering the second and third quarters as the lead reached 49-16. They led by as many as 37 at one point in the fourth quarter.

Coach Brooke called his team’s transition offense “organized chaos.”

“I like how my girls got out tonight and pushed the ball up the floor and did a really nice job, I thought, of reading the defense as they moved the ball,” coach Brooke said. “And then on defense, we just came out, and as you probably noticed, for the last 10 days, we worked hard on man-to-man defense, and I thought the girls did a nice job of doing that.”

Millie Scorsone scored 11 points to lead RHS. Kaitlin Rogers, who had seven, was the only other RHS player with multiple field goals against Pioneer’s man-to-man defense.

But there was a bigger Lady Z story that came a day after the game.

Athletic director Ryan Johnson announced in a statement that the RHS girls program was going to be shut down through Jan. 7 due to “COVID concerns.” That meant that the team would not participate at the Warsaw tournament three days later and that the team would also not play Bremen on Jan. 5.

Five days later, Johnson adjusted the schedule further, postponing the Jan. 9 home game against Whitko to Jan. 13. The Logansport game originally scheduled for Jan. 13 was canceled.

This is Rochester’s second quarantine. They were also paused Nov. 13-26. Coach Brian Jennings and varsity assistant Ray Davis both later said they had COVID-19 during that period.

As for the game against Pioneer, they had no answers for Olivia Brooke. She hit a 15-footer, a free throw and a layup in transition off a steal as part of the first seven-point run.

She later added a putback, a 3-point play off some early offense and a free throw with six seconds left.

Meanwhile, Walker hit a pair of midrange jumpers and had a layup, running the floor and even beating RHS down the floor after a made basket to make it 18-5.

Walker added six more points in the second quarter, including two more buckets in transition. Cripe and Blickenstaff each had a pair of baskets in the second quarter, and freshman forward Brooklyn Borges drilled a trey from the right corner.

Pioneer was playing for the first time in 11 days. Rochester was playing for the second straight day, having lost 44-42 to Class 1A, No. 9 North White on Tuesday.

“We literally gave the same effort that we gave (against) North White,” Jennings said. “It’s just Pioneer’s effort was the winning effort. I think our girls really believe that they’re giving their maximum effort, but they’re not. We see them at different times where they give more effort. We’ve just got to have that full-out effort for 32 minutes. When Pioneer runs the same break that we do, and they just run it faster and harder than what we did, that’s a lesson that we’ve got to learn. It’s not necessarily a step back because we’re still playing the same. They just went faster and harder than what we did.”

Pioneer received a four-day break for Christmas.

“When we came back this week, first practice was awful,” Cripe said. “We were lagging. We were slow. Sloppy ball. (Tuesday), we picked it up a little bit. Just practice, practice, practice. And tonight, we really showed how we play, and that’s getting up and down the floor and beating teams on the offensive side quickly, so I think it’s all coming together now.”

Defensively, in the first half, Olivia Brooke and Madison Blickenstaff were to play behind the players they were guarding in the post and force the Rochester post player they were guarding to turn to the middle after the catch, where help would be waiting.

In the second half, Olivia Brooke and Blickenstaff fronted the post, and Walker’s job was to help from behind.

Also, Pioneer did not let a Rochester player on the wing to attempt to reverse the ball with a pass. Players like Borges and Walker would step in the passing lane and prevent Rochester’s top ballhandlers like Emma Howdeshell from setting the offense.

“We were trying to drive the nail,” coach Brooke said. “You know, put a nail in the top of the key and say, hey, you don’t want that ball to come across the nail. We continued to work on that throughout the week, and I thought our girls did a nice job not allowing that ball reversal.”

Walker’s increased scoring did not surprise her teammates.

“She’s capable of scoring 10 to 15 a night,” Cripe said of Walker. “She has an excellent shot. Her field goal percentage last year was 50 percent, which is crazy. We want her to shoot the ball more and be confident in her shot because she’s able to get those 10 points, and that’s what we need from her every night.”

Game notes

  • Rochester won the JV game 32-12.

  • Rochester’s Kennedy Jackson and Cripe are cousins. Their mothers are sisters.

  • The game was a late addition to the schedule. Both teams were scheduled to compete at the Twin Lakes Invitational Tuesday and Wednesday, but the tournament was canceled.

  • It’s unclear when Rochester and Pioneer last met prior to Wednesday, but it’s almost certain that this was the teams’ first meeting in at least 20 years.

Pioneer 66, Rochester 34

ROCHESTER (34) (7-6)

Kami Burkett 0 0-3 0, Emma Howdeshell 1 0-0 2, Kaitlin Rogers 3 0-0 7, Lexy Thomas 1 0-0 2, Emily Hughes 1 1-4 3, Kim Batten 1 1-1 3, Sydney Haughs 1 0-0 3, Mercedes Brown 0 0-0 0, Kennedy Jackson 0 1-2 1, Millie Scorsone 5 1-3 11

TEAM: 13 6-15 34

PIONEER (66) (6-3)

Mackenzie Walker 6 0-0 12, Hailey Cripe 7 0-0 18, Brooklyn Borges 1 0-0 3, Olivia Brooke 9 5-8 23, Madison Blickenstaff 3 0-2 6, Crystabelle Blickenstaff 2 0-0 4, Kylie Attinger 0 0-0 0, Maggie Steffel 0 0-0 0, Katelyn Duncan 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 27 5-10 66

Three-point field goals:

Rochester 2 (Rogers, Haughs),

Pioneer 5 (Cripe 4, Borges)

Total fouls: Rochester 9, Pioneer 11

Turnovers: Rochester 24, Pioneer 14

Score by quarters

Rochester 7 9 6 12 34

Pioneer 21 20 15 10 66

JV: Rochester 32, Pioneer 12

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