Ethan Spencer takes over the fourth quarter in Pioneer's 65-55 win over Skyline
Terry Jacoby for AnnArbor.com
With Jibreel Hussein, Tevis Robinson and Cal Kirchen on the Pioneer basketball roster, it’s a safe bet that Pioneer center Ethan Spencer wasn’t at the top of the Skyline boys basketball team's defensive priority list.
But it was Spencer who took over and helped the Pioneers answer everything Skyline brought in the fourth quarter on Thursday night at Pioneer High School.
The senior forward scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the final quarter to help lead Pioneer to a 65-55 win over cross-town rival Skyline and stay alive in the Southeastern Conference Red Division race.
The Pioneers (14-4 overall, 9-2 SEC Red) play at Saline on Tuesday and will share the title with either Huron or Bedford if they can beat the Hornets.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Spencer took advantage of every opportunity Skyline gave him.
“It was their Senior Night and they came out real strong and got up 11-2 on us,” said Skyline coach Mike Lovelace. “And that was basically the difference right there.
“Our pressure was getting to them, but Ethan Spencer made some real nice plays and hit some big buckets when we were going on some runs.”
Jack Clark and Peter Bakker-Arkema each scored 12 to lead Skyline (8-10, 5-6). Duane Simpson-Redmond scored five of his 11 points in the fourth quarter for Pioneer.
The third quarter was evenly played and featured plenty of back-and-forth action. A basket by Chris Spaly and a long jumper by Isaac Lockhart cut Pioneer’s lead to 40-33 with 1:03 left in the third quarter as the Eagles refused to go away. But a steal created a layup for Cal Kirchen and Pioneer led 42-33 after three quarters.
Like the first quarter, Skyline struggled early in the second quarter but finished strong to cut a 15-point deficit to 31-21 at halftime.
The night didn’t start out well for Skyline. After Pioneer honored its 10 seniors before the game, the home team hit their first three shots to take a 6-0 lead. A triple from the deep corner by Hussein gave Pioneer a 9-0 lead.
The Eagles finally got on the board at the 4:35 mark on a layup by Spaly to make it 9-2. But a bucket inside from Spencer, on a great pass from Simpson-Redmond, and a layup from Kirchen gave Pioneer a 13-2 lead with 2:10 to play in the first quarter.
Skyline finished the quarter on a 6-0 run but still trailed 13-8 after one.
Skyline’s Tristan Wilson opened the fourth quarter was a thunderous dunk to cut Pioneer’s lead to 42-35. After two Pioneer free throws, Sharath Anand and Shawn Triplett scored back-to-back baskets for the Eagles to make it 44-39 with just over six minutes to play in the game.
Two free throws by Wilson with 5:17 to play made it a one possession game for the first time since the first minute of the game. Skyline had the ball down 46-43 but couldn’t convert.
At the other end, Spencer scored inside to push the lead to 48-43. With 3:46 to play, Spencer scored again with another aggressive drive to the hoop to give the home team a 52-47 lead.
“Jibreel is going to be at the top of everyone’s to-stop list, but Skyline knows us well enough to know how good of a player Ethan is,” said Pioneer coach Rex Stanczak. “He played the first 12 games or so still dealing with his injured ankle from football and he’s just now getting back to the type of player we know he is. ”
And it’s not like Spencer hasn’t been contributing this season.
“He might be the only center in the state of Michigan who leads his team in assists,” Stanczak said. “So he’s a decision maker for us all the time and he made the right decisions in that fourth quarter.”
Terry Jacoby is a freelance journalist for AnnArbor.com.