DELPHI — Pioneer left little doubt on the floor as to who was the best girls’ basketball team at the Indiana Kitchen Holiday Classic on Saturday — as they ran past North Montgomery 42-18 — to the tournament title.
The Panthers (11-2) grabbed a 9-2 lead after a quarter, and never looked back.
“You can’t teach heart, and you can’t teach desire, and we didn’t have those two things today,” North Montgomery coach Ryan Nuppnau said following the loss. “It just didn’t really seem like the girls wanted to be out there. It’s disappointing when the other team just outworks you. They want it more, they cut harder, they pass the ball faster, and they move quicker.”
Madison Blickenstaff scored eight first half points for Pioneer, who grabbed a 20-9 advantage, after holding the Chargers to just 3-of-20 shooting over the first 16 minutes.
The same pattern continued in the second half, as Olivia Brooke’s eight third quarter points helped the Panthers stretch their lead to 36-11 after three quarters. North Montgomery (9-6) took just 13 second half shots, and were a mere 7-of-32 (22 percent) for the game.
Hailey Cripe entered the championship averaging 18 points a game for Pioneer, but was shutdown by Grace McClaskey.
“Grace did a great job defensively,” Nuppnau said. “Holding their leading scorer of 18 points to three points, and that was after second-chance opportunity.”
Unfortunately, the Chargers were unable to stop Brooke’s 16 points, and Blickenstaff’s 13 that led all scorers.
Nuppnau felt like Lydia Dugard and Madi Welch gave the Chargers a spark, but it just wasn’t enough.
“Lydia Dugard did a great job coming off the bench,” he said. “She gave us a lot of energy, she was attacking and aggressive. You love to see her out there going hard, and not being afraid to make a mistake. Madi Welch gave it her all out there. A few good things, but overall we have to put it together as a team.
Katie Rice led the Chargers with eight points, while Dugard added five.
Despite an 9-6 record more than 2/3rds the way through the season, Nuppnau says a lack of killer instinct remains within the Chargers.
“They don’t want to battle and don’t want to be out there,” he said. “You see it a lot in the classroom, to where if something is hard then ‘I’m not going to try, because if I don’t try then I can’t fail.’ And that’s what it is out here. You’ve got a great opportunity to go up against a really good team and a couple good girls, and instead of rising to the occasion and saying ‘I’ve got nothing to lose, and going out and playing hard.’ We just don’t have that killer instinct and it’s something we have over and over, and it’s not just our sport, it’s school-wide.”
Rice was named to the all-tournament team, joining Rossville’s Madison Miller, Delphi’s Myer, and Pioneer’s Cripe and Brooke.
North Montgomery is off until they host North Putnam at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7.