Girls Basketball: Defense carries Pioneer to win over Smith Academy

Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2020 10:41:11 PM
Modified: 1/24/2020 10:40:58 PM

NORTHFIELD — The offense was sporadic, but the defense was a constant for the Pioneer Valley Regional School girls basketball team in a tight 45-42 win over Smith Academy at Messer Gymnasium on Friday night.

It was only fitting that a defensive play sealed the independent win for the Panthers on the game’s final possession.

With Smith Academy inbounding from just beyond midcourt with under 10 seconds to play, the Panthers set up their defense to deter a 3-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.

The Falcons never got a shot off, with Kaitlin Trudeau getting her hand on the pass from out of bounds. The deflected pass found the arms of Alina Cecunjanin, who dribbled out the clock.

“It’s what we practice all week long,” Pioneer coach Michael Churchill said. “This is where it pays off.”

Pioneer (4-6) started slowly offensively, but picked up as the game progressed. Paige Loughman led the Panthers in scoring with 20 points, nine rebounds and six steals.

“We were struggling a little bit before halftime to get our intensity,” Loughman said. “But then in the locker room, Coach got us going.”

Sarah Johnson stepped up for the Panthers at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Johnson hit a mid-range jumper, and then Loughman found her streaking down the court on a breakaway.

The two baskets gave Pioneer a 39-30 lead, and the Panthers ended up needing a large cushion to hold off the Falcons.

“When other people are scoring it opens up the floor,” Loughman said. 

Stephanie Scoville tossed in 17 points with seven rebounds for Pioneer. The dual attack of Scoville and Loughman has been effective all season for the Panthers.

“I can always rely on someone to be there for me,” Scoville said. “And she can rely on me, too. But we have three other people that will be there for us also. We need everyone to be an offensive threat.”

Smith Academy (4-9) received 13 points from Erin Gilrein and 10 points from Karlie Guimond.

Loughman went 2-for-4 in the final minute at the free throw line to solidify the win. Scoville began the fourth quarter with a floater that gave Pioneer a 35-30 lead.

“That makes your life much easier as a coach,” Churchill said. “When you have two scorers that you can get the ball to that work hard. We’ve tried hard to develop other scorers because teams will see that. But it’s what we have to work with. It’s great to know they can take a game over.”

The Panthers faced a 9-4 early deficit in the first quarter. Guimond forced a lot of action for the Falcons, going 3-for-4 from the free throw line in the first frame.

Loughman scored five points to help cut the lead to 10-9 by the end of the first quarter.

Scoville took over for the Panthers in the second quarter, scoring seven of her 17 points to put Pioneer in the lead for the first time in the game.

The lead grew to 18-13 for Pioneer.  

Smith Academy answered with a run but Loughman nailed a 3-pointer before the half to send the game to intermission at 23-19.

Charlotte Kahler made a pivotal play in the third quarter for the Panthers. Kahler dove for a loose ball out of bounds and ended up saving a possession for the Panthers.

Scoville hit two free throws after the play by Kahler, sending the Panthers into the fourth quarter with a 33-27 lead.

A Gilrein 3-pointer made it a one-possession game for the Falcons in the fourth quarter before Trudeau’s steal helped seal the win.

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