Class D quarters: No. 2 Pioneer controls the glass, runs away from No. 7 Smith Academy for 63-27 win (PHOTOS)

Pioneer’s Kurt Redeker (3), right, tries to block a shot from Smith Academy’s Greg Stone during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield.

Pioneer’s Kurt Redeker (3), right, tries to block a shot from Smith Academy’s Greg Stone during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Jackson Glazier (4) dribbles up the floor against Smith Academy during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield.

Pioneer’s Jackson Glazier (4) dribbles up the floor against Smith Academy during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Josh Wood (32), right, grabs a rebound in front of Smith Academy's Jake Wilcox (2) during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield.

Pioneer’s Josh Wood (32), right, grabs a rebound in front of Smith Academy's Jake Wilcox (2) during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Pioneer’s Will Glazier (25), right, defends Smith Academy’s Cameron Graves (10) during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield.

Pioneer’s Will Glazier (25), right, defends Smith Academy’s Cameron Graves (10) during the Panthers’ victory in the PVIAC Class D Tournament on Monday night at Messer Gymnasium in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 02-19-2024 8:14 PM

Modified: 02-19-2024 9:28 PM


NORTHFIELD — It was the type of performance Pioneer boys basketball coach Scott Thayer was hoping to see from his team on Monday during the quarterfinals of the Western Mass. Class D tournament. 

Hosting No. 7 Smith Academy, the second-seeded Panthers raced out to a 17-7 lead after one quarter before outscoring the Falcons 18-6 in the second quarter to take a 35-13 lead into the break. 

Pioneer didn’t allow Smith Academy to get back in the game in the final 16 minutes of action, as Pioneer advanced to the semis with a 63-27 triumph at Messer Gymnasium. 

“I’m really pleased with the energy and effort,” Thayer said. “We were diving on the floor and rebounding the ball. We shared the ball really well. I’m pleased. It’s a stepping stone. Let’s see if we can stack some of these together and see what happens.” 

The Panthers (15-4) advanced to host No. 3 Duggan in the semis on Wednesday. The Jayhawks are coming off a 67-54 victory over Hopkins Academy in the quarters. 

It was its play on the glass that gave Pioneer an edge over Smith Academy on Monday. 

The Falcons (9-10) were at a height disadvantage and too often, the Panthers were able to get multiple shots each trip down the floor by winning on the offensive glass. 

“We played hard,” Smith Academy coach Matt Zerneri said. “It’s tough when you give them two or three opportunities each possession. If we clean up the boards in the first quarter it’s a tighter game and you don’t know how the rest of the game plays out. You could just see our spirit was crushed when we kept giving up opportunity after opportunity. We fought hard, we just didn’t have the size to keep them off the glass.” 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Dennis Carey marks 40 years participating in River Rat Race
Families fume at Orange Elementary School Committee over LPN hire
New expenses prove a hurdle for Athol’s town budget
Athol officials explore legal options for fire-ravaged property
After six decades, River Rat Race paddles on
Safety a priority for River Rat Race organizers

As the postseason wears on, Thayer said he hopes the postseason experience Pioneer has can pay dividends as the tournament enters the latter stages. The Panthers are the defending Class D champs, and also made a run to the state quarters last season.

“Having done this for so long, I feel so blessed to be able to do this for as long as I have and to have been in so many of these games,” Thayer said. “It’s just so much fun, win, lose or draw. We’ve been in games like this. We just have to draw on our experience, go out there and have fun.”  

Leading 5-4 early, Brayden Thayer got inside for two, Josh Wood swished a corner 3-pointer and Kurt Redeker got in the paint for a bucket to give the Panthers a 12-4 lead early. 

Garrett Willard hit a 3 for Smith Academy but Hugh Cyhowski put back an offensive board and Alex McClelland knocked down a trey to give Pioneer a 17-7 lead after one. 

It was all Panthers in the second quarter. 

Jackson Glazier hit a jumper just as the shot clock expired, Will Glazier made a basket while being fouled, Jackson Glazier made a 3 and Thayer made a pair from the charity stripe, giving Pioneer a 26-7 lead. 

Wood hit a 3 and got to the basket for two, Cyhowski made a jumper while Redeker got to the rim for basket to close out the half, giving the Panthers a 35-13 lead at the break.

Pioneer led 53-25 after three and outscored the Falcons 10-2 in the fourth quarter. 

“Pioneer hit shots when they were open,” Zerneri said. “They were able to clean up the glass when they didn’t and made it hard on us. Kudos to them. We have to regroup and get after it again on Thursday.” 

Zerneri said getting to play in the Western Mass. tournament against a team like Pioneer will be valuable experience for his squad moving forward. 

“It’s great experience,” Zerneri said. “We’re pretty young ourselves. You wish for a different outcome but it’s good to get up here, play on a bigger court and play a team who was in the state quarters last year. We knew it would be hard. It just didn’t work out for us.” 

Wednesday won’t be the first meeting of the season between Pioneer and Duggan. The two squads faced off earlier this month, with the Panthers able to come away with a tight 51-45 victory. 

The time for the tip is set for 6 p.m.

“I don’t think either team played their best the first time around,” Thayer said. “We’ll see what happens. They’ll come in here ready to roll. That’s the nature of the whole thing. We have to be ready for a fist fight.”