by Rick Conrad
For the Pharos-Tribune
ROYAL CENTER —
In nearly a standing room-only packed house on senior night on Saturday, Pioneer played host to the Delphi Oracles in boys basketball.
Many where there to show their admiration for the seniors playing their last home game. Others were there to show their appreciation for the 1962-63 Royal Center team that was honored during halftime.
All were witness to another beating by the Panthers, as this time Delphi was the victim in a 69-40 victory.
After a sound win at Winamac on Friday, the Panthers (16-3) pretty much picked up from where they left off the night before. In the first quarter it looked as if we were going to have a battle between the two squads. Delphi (14-5) took its only lead of the night at 9-8 before the Panthers got serious. A bomb from long range by Brandon Scruggs gave Pioneer a 11-9 lead and the Panthers never looked back. Pioneer was able to take a four point lead at 15-11 before closing out the quarter with a 15-14 lead.
The Panthers then rolled up their sleeves and went to work. The Panther defense started playing the way they had at Winamac and Delphi was unable to respond. Pioneer shut down the Oracle offense for nearly the first four minutes of the quarter before a Cole Murray jumper ended a 13-0 Panther run at the 4:06 mark. The Pioneer crowd erupted at the 2:46 mark when Carter Skaggs stole the ball and raced in to jam the ball home. Moments later he was whistled for a technical foul after some verbal sparring with an Oracle player. By halftime the Panthers had built their lead to 39-21 and were well in control.
When play resumed in the third quarter there was no let up by Pioneer. The defensive pressure continued while the offense kept rolling. A 12-3 run ending at the 4:55 mark had blown the game wide open with Pioneer taking a 51-24 lead and Delphi taking a timeout. Following the time-out the Panthers rolled to a 53-30 lead after three.
Things began to settle down some during the final quarter as both squads went to their benches. Before the Panther bench was emptied though the Panther crowd had one more highlight to applaud. With 2:27 left to play and the Panthers up 64-40, Skaggs again broke free for his second dunk of the game. With all reserves playing, the defensive pressure continued as Pioneer went on to the 69-40 win.
“We just wanted to get out to a quick start in the game. We had a big crowd here and that was good to see,” said senior Clayton Harvey. “After the first quarter Coach told us to just keep doing what we’ve done all year and things started rolling for us and shots began to fall.”
Delphi was led in the game by Ricky Windell and Murray, who both finished with 10 points. Brent Hawn added nine.
It was another big shooting night for the senior Scruggs as he led the Panthers with a game-high 21 points with five from behind the arc accounting for 15 of them. Skaggs finished with 14 and was again shut out from long range. Matt Dorris added 12 points while Stephen Whitlock and Mitchell Williams each chipped in eight each.
“Our seniors have just been outstanding during my time here at Pioneer, and for them playing their last game at home to be able to put aside the emotion and play this way I thought was big,” Pioneer coach Pat Skaggs said. “We moved the ball well and were able to play as a team again, but I really thought our defense was the key again. They have a lot of kids that can score and they’re a good team, a quick team, and I was really happy with our halfcourt defense.”
Prior to the start of the game the class of 2013 and their parents were introduced to the crowd. During halftime of the varsity contest the semistate finalist team of 1963 from Royal Center was honored and presented with a memento celebrating the evening.