Pioneers News · Girls Basketball Opens up with Victory

Riverview Gabriel Richard and Southgate Anderson got out to a sluggish start on Monday night in what was the first game of the delayed 2020-21 season.

While both squads were rusty, mainly in the shooting department, host Richard grabbed an early lead and held off Anderson late to earn a 34-24 victory in the non-league battle.

The visiting Titans scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, which was more than they had managed through the first three quarters combined (11). The Pioneers netted 15 points in the fourth, which was close to their total through the first three quarters (19).

“I was very proud of how our kids responded,” said Richard coach Sam Lamb. “We missed a ton of layups early and they didn’t pout, they didn’t hang their head, they just kept playing hard. I tell them all the time if you play hard, good things happen.”

Teams certainly have a good excuse for being out of sync at this point. Not only was Monday the first day of games, it was the first chance for winter contact sports to partake in any type of regular competition. Basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer squads started practice on Jan. 16 but had to hold those sessions with participants at six feet apart.

An announcement came down last Thursday that the winter contact sports would be able to get underway on Monday, as opposed to Feb. 21.

“We literally had three days to prepare for this game and we haven’t had a contact practice yet,” Lamb said. “I’m really happy with how they responded through all of this. They’ve been very resilient, they’ve stayed positive and they’ve stayed ready.”

For the Pioneers on Monday, Haley Hand led all scorers with 13 points and her teammate Izzy Assimacopoulos finished with 11 points. The Titans were led by Faith Plummer, who wrapped up the evening with nine points.

Richard led 8-2 after the first quarter and was up 14-4 at the half.

Neither team managed a third-quarter point until Assimacopoulos made a shot while being fouled at the 4:40 mark. She knocked down the subsequent free throw to give her team a 13-point advantage.

Anderson snapped a scoring drought of more than 10 minutes when Riley Thacker drilled a 3-pointer, with about three minutes remaining and pulled the visitors to within 10 points.

Plummer made a shot for the Titans with 15 seconds to go in the third and cut the deficit to single digits at 19-11 heading into the final quarter.

It was Plummer who pulled Anderson to within seven, in the fourth quarter, when she hit a basket with 3:18 remaining. Soon after, Hand put two free throws through the hoop for the home team and then scored again with 1:42 left to move the lead back up to 10.

With a minute left on the clock, the Titans’ Ava Peryam hit from behind the arc and made it a 30-22 game.

Anderson fouled Hand and Assimacopoulos one time each inside the final minute. Both players nailed their free-throw attempts and all but squashed Anderson’s hopes of a comeback.

“It’s a learning process,” said Titans coach Larry Sakalas. “I can’t be upset with it at all. I’m happy with the way they played in the second half.

“We finally picked up our defense in the second half, we got more physical in the second half, which is something I told them from day one we’re going to have to be, we can’t get pushed around. I just thought we played harder, generally, on offense and defense in the second half and it showed.”

Monday’s contest kicked off what will be a six-week regular season for high school basketball (girls and boys) in the state. District playoffs will get started the week of March 22.

Next up for Richard was a Catholic League game on Wednesday, at home, against rival Allen Park Cabrini. Anderson was set to host Allen Park the same evening in a DRL matchup.