The Pioneers fall to 6A power David Douglas in the title game

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Austin Gorski fights through a crowd to get off a shot during Fridays win over Hood River.The Sandy Pioneers did not have a single player emerge as an all-star in their opener against Hood River Valley on Friday. That is exactly how they planned it.

Driven by a complete team effort, the inexperienced Pioneers looked like world-beaters as they blazed past the Eagles 66-42 in what was the first varsity contest for almost the whole roster.

“Any time you win the first game, it’s kind of fun,” Sandy coach Jason Maki said. “Really, none of those guys besides Hunter (Rowe) has ever played, so a few them were a little wide-eyed, but I thought we had good energy, and it was fun.”

Sandy was the epitome of balance offensively as everyone got involved. All 12 players on the roster scored at least two points, and five different Pioneers posted at least seven points.

Miles Brown gave them an inside presence in the key. Austin Gorski posted up and got to the free-throw line. Bryce Tilton slashed to the hoop for layups. Rowe took defenders off the dribble. Juan Ruiz came off the bench and nailed some tough shots. Timmy Grozav, the smallest guy on the team, came out of nowhere for put-backs on the offensive glass. Each guy did things his own way, but each was effective.

“We have a really, really unselfish group. The ball was really moving around,” Maki said.

What really helped Sandy’s offense was its defense. The Pioneers played a fierce trap defense that stifled Hood River’s ball handlers. The Eagles couldn’t break the trap often, and Sandy got out in transition frequently. When the Pioneers weren’t running down the floor on a fast break, they still managed to get the bulk of their shots near the rim. That gave them high-percentage chances each time down the floor, which fueled a 10-1 run to close out the first quarter. The run gave the Pioneers an 18-6 lead at the end of the period, and they never looked back.

Sandy didn’t convert on every close look, or even most of them, but it did force Hood River to foul constantly. The Pioneers attempted 23 foul shots in the first half alone, allowing them to stay ahead by double digits despite making just one field goal in the final six minutes of the first half.

Hood River made a run at Sandy in the third quarter as it drained 3-pointers on three straight possessions, but the Pioneers regained defensive intensity and didn’t allow a clear shot in the final 2:30 of the period. During that stretch, Sandy had four different players score as it went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-point lead. The Pioneers stayed on top by least 19 points for the rest of the game. They led by as many as 28 points before settling for a 24-point triumph.

• In Saturday’s championship game, the Pioneers hit the skids against Class 6A opponent David Douglas. The undefeated Scots, who claimed a 65-46 win, were in control most of the way, but Sandy clawed back into it in the second half and narrowed the score to 41-40. The Pioneers then surrendered a horde of turnovers, failed to finish on layups at the rim and missed foul shots. David Douglas seized the opportunity and went on a 19-0 run to go up 60-40 late in the game.

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