FAIRBURY — The first five players off the University High School bench Friday played like a unit that would be starting for most programs.
"I thought the biggest difference in the ballgame tonight was our gold team," said Pioneers coach Bob Fitzgerald after reserves Perry Lim, Mclain Engel, Niles Smith, Logan Wolf and Keondre Schumacher combined for 46 points in an 83-43 Corn Belt Conference victory over host Prairie Central.
"Our second group, I thought they came in the game when things were kind of stagnant and absolutely gave us a tremendous boost."
That second unit triggered a 13-2 run midway through the first half that pushed U High (9-7 overall, 6-2 Corn Belt) to a 25-9 advantage that quickly eroded the Hawks' chances.
While starter Alex Morris led the Pioneers with 14 points, Lim and Wolf combined as a force inside while Engel remained deadly from 3-point range. Lim finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, Wolf totaled six points, six rebounds and five assists and Engel drained four of U High's 11 3s for all 12 of his points.
"Keondre controlled the game at the point and distributed the basketball well," said Fitzgerald. "Our 'gold' unit deserves a ton of credit because they won this basketball game."
Blaine Lewallen netted 10 points, while Tom Shafer and Jallen Bashford followed with nine apiece for Prairie Central (7-12, 1-7), as the Hawks were undone by 21 turnovers.
"Schematically we did not follow what we were supposed to do. Their athleticism took us out of what we wanted to accomplish as far as spacing and things like that," said Prairie Central coach Joe Moore. "They kind of hit us in the mouth and we kind of ran with it instead of fight back. Mentally we checked out at times tonight."
The Pioneers scored the first eight points of the game as two steals by Morris and another by Jalen Perry led to easy buckets. A Lim inside basket off a Wolf feed closed the first quarter at 17-9.
"They're good at creating turnovers and getting some easy looks that way. It builds their confidence and you see a layup go through and then that 3-pointer looks a bit better. They shot it well," said Moore.
After another Lim score, consecutive treys by Smith and Engel forced Moore to call timeout early in the second quarter. When Engel hit two more back-to-back 3s late in the half, the lead reached 42-22.
Unsatisfied by early defensive lapses, Fitzgerald saw the U High defense hold Prairie Central to seven points in the fourth quarter to pull away.
"We got a little handsy there for a while and grabbed on a couple of plays," he said. "But we made some adjustments from full court (pressure) into half court, did a good job defending and letting our offense come from there."
Perry had five steals and Morris four as the Pioneers racked up 24 thefts. Nick Patkunas pulled down a game-high nine boards, while Lewallen had six for the Hawks.