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Pioneers stun Fighting Irish with first-quarter shutout in regional semifinal

The Croswell-Lexington boys basketball team had quite the game plan heading into Monday’s regional semifinal game against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.

Head coach Lance Campbell said their goal was to “hound” the Fighting Irish to prevent them from getting comfortable, and with a 20-0 lead after the first quarter, the Pioneers’ plan seemed to be working.

Mitchell Geiger shoots a layup in the regional semifinal against Notre Dame Prep. (Courtesy | Doug Dennison)

“The kids executed extremely well,” Campbell said. “We had some stops early and got out in transition. Any time you get out in transition and make a couple of easy ones, your confidence goes up and you start shooting the ball better from the perimeter. We reboudned the ball really, really well in the first quarter too.”

By halftime, however, Prep crept back in the game, narrowing the deficit to nine, 31-22, with a few threes, a couple steals, and a big and-one.

The Fighting Irish crept even closer in the third, trailing the Pioneers by four: 40-36. The tenacious Cros-Lex defense was stalling, but its offense soon found new life.

Trey Kolakovich sank a 3-pointer with seven minutes remaining, putting the Pioneers ahead 43-38. He repeated the feat two minutes later, the score now 46-38.

Prep answered with two points of its own, but this time Drew Hosterman took a turn from beyond the arc. With 3:40 left in regulation, Cros-Lex led 49-40 and would go on to win 58-45.

Donovan McDonald reaches for the ball in the regional semifinal against Notre Dame Prep. (Courtesy | Doug Dennison)

“I felt like our kids really stepped up and made plays and that experience helped. There were five guys on the floor who had played a lot of basketball together,” Campbell said. “They performed extremely well in the fourth quarter when the pressure was on.”

The Pioneers’ chemistry and experience was evident, especially in those final minutes as they played a disciplined game of keep away, resulting in wide open back-door buckets or points at the charity stripe.

Four seniors led in double figures, Kolakovich with 15 points, and Mitchell Geiger, Zachary Kroetsch, and Donovan McDonald each with 11.

“I think that’s probably when we’re the toughest, when we get multiple guys to be threats,” Campbell said.

And he thinks this momentum will bode well for Wednesday’s Division 2, Region 16 championship game against Goodrich.

“Goodrich is a different animal. They’re a lot bigger and more physical so we’ve got to rebound better,” Campbell said. “They're not as dominant at the perimeter, but they can still shoot the basketball from the perimeter so it’s going to be a tough one.

“The great thing is, I think we have guys who’ve made shots in big games and that’s going to help them moving forward to tomorrow.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in the Imlay City High School gym. Get tickets. Watch live.


For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli

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