Pioneers rebound with win against St. Clair Skippers

Men's Basketball Jan. 24
By Joe Thornton, reporter.

UNIVERSITY CENTER – On Wednesday, Jan. 24 the Delta Pioneers faced off at home against the St. Clair Skippers in a conference matchup. With the Pioneers coming off their third straight loss, they had something to prove to their fans, coaches and themselves. This game was much more than it appeared to be on paper with the Pioneers’ pride on the line.

As the exhibition began the Pioneer bench was noticeably loud and enthusiastic. The vocal support from teammates clearly resonated with their players on the court, as Delta erupted for an early 8-0 lead. This energy on the court was evidence that the philosophies of head coach Carlos McMath were breaking through.

“Every play is crucial. E.P.I.C., it’s the mentality that we carry every time we step on the court. Culture of one is another motto that we preach, but it doesn’t always come from the guys who score the most points or have the highlight play. It stems from every player on the team doing whatever they can to unify and elevate this team, and tonight we did that with the bench. Our bench gave us an edge throughout the game with their vocal energy and enthusiasm,” explains McMath.

After starting the game strong a time-out was frantically called by Delta as the Pioneers fell behind with a score of 12-17. The game increased in pace and aggression gradually, yet Delta still struggled to take control of the lead. The first half ended with a score of 32-41 and a sense that the Pioneers were heading toward another loss in the column.

As the second commenced, the Pioneers notified everyone in the building that this game wasn’t even close to being finished. Both St. Clair and Delta came out of their locker rooms with determination and transformed the gymnasium into a boxing ring, trading body blows repeatedly until high-flyer Jalen Fykes shifted momentum with an authoritative one-handed dunk.

All of a sudden the Pioneers had the lead, and it didn’t appear they had any plans of letting it go. The audience exploded with excitement as the enigmatic Martel Handley stripped the ball from a defender and commanded attention with a powerful slam-dunk finish. The Pioneers were able to hold on until the final buzzer blared with a final score of 79-72.

McMath credits the win to improvements on the defensive side of the ball and the ample amount of talent that each player on the team offers.

“In this game we were able to take our defensive tenacity to the next level, which says a lot with us coming off a weekend with no practice or games. An essential part of this win was our team’s ability to simply outpace our opponent due to the abundance of talent that we have. Both teams start the game with their starting five and all of them are A-plus players. Surely enough, those starters are going to get tired. While other teams are taking out their stars and putting in C-minus players, I’m pulling someone off the bench that I know is an A-minus player or a B-plus player. Those mismatches are able to give us the advantage in games and should bring us success us as we move forward,” explains McMath.

Sophomore guard Martel Handley thinks this win is exactly what the Pioneers needed to reinstill their confidence and get the team back on track.

“This win is a big momentum change for us. After the three-game losing streak our team as a whole lost its spark, but this win is the first step to us getting back to the mentality we had when we started the season 10-0,” states Handley.

Handley has high hopes for the season going forward and has been working on and off the court to better himself as a player.

“After last game Coach [McMath] said that some of us need to step up as leaders. Even with the whole team in the locker room, I knew I was one of the people to blame. Since then, I have stepped up the plate and been more encouraging toward my teammates. Right now Coach [McMath] wants us to focus on the mental aspects of the game, and I know if we perfect those, we’ll go on a winning streak moving forward,” states Handley.

This win for the Pioneers puts their overall record at 11-3 and their conference record at 3-3. McMath and his players will look to bring this momentum into their next matchup on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Macomb Community College.

Video by Kevin Lazzaro


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