Pioneer boys rally past Hawks, 54-47
Posted: February 11, 2013
Special to The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — With Skyline holding a 45-44 lead with 1:42 left in its game at Millbrook Saturday, Pioneer senior guard Rze Culbreath took over the game.
Culbreath scored two 3-point plays in less than 10 seconds to ignite a 10-2 Pioneer run, rallying Millbrook to a 54-47 victory over the Hawks in each team’s final Northwestern District regular season game.
“We’re not a very good shooting team so we have to make up for that with defense and foul shooting,” Millbrook coach Scott Mankins said. “This was a good win for us heading into the tournament.”
The win sends the Pioneers (12-9, 5-3 Northwestern) into this week’s district tournament, which will be played at the Pioneers’ Casey Gymnasium, as the third seed. Millbrook will face Handley Wednesday in the semifinals. Skyline (13-9, 1-7) will play James Wood tonight at Millbrook for an opportunity to play top-seeded Sherando in Wednesday’s other semifinal game.
“We feel very good heading into the tournament,” Mankins said. “This is a new season and a new opportunity. We’re looking forward to it.”
Culbreath’s heroics weren’t the only reason for the Pioneer win. Despite shooting just 11 of 46 from the field, Millbrook was able to overcome its poor shooting with excellent defense and a phenomenal performance from the line.
With the game on the line, the Pioneers hit a perfect 6 of 6 from the line over the final minute and a half of play to seal the win. Culbreath, again, was Millbrook’s primary weapon, hitting four of those final six free throws, and going 12 of 15 for the game.
“When you’re in a close game like this one, you have to hit your free throws at the end of the game if you are going to win,” said Culbreath, who had seven steals, four rebounds and two assists. “The team did what we needed today. We were able to draw fouls, get turnovers, and keep them for getting good looks at the basket, particularly in the fourth quarter.”
Millbrook’s play in the final seconds of the game spoiled a brilliant performance by the Hawks, who after a slow start, led through most of the contest.
Skyline’s slow start was generated by seven costly first-quarter turnovers that allowed the Pioneers to jump ahead 13-11 after one period of play. Millbrook’s early lead was also aided by a pair of 3-pointers by Culbreath and Thomas Baylor in the opening quarter, as well as limiting its turnovers to just three.
Things changed dramatically in the second period, though. Skyline won the turnover battle in the second, committing just four to Millbrook’s eight. The Hawks also got an inspired performance on offense by Kylmen Breeden. The Skyline senior scored 12 of his team-high 18 points during the quarter, leading the Hawks to a stunning 27-22 lead at halftime.
Millbrook responded in the second half by putting on a brilliant defensive performance that limited Breeden to just six second half points. The Pioneers also cut their turnovers down to three during the period.
Unfortunately, Millbrook’s shooting problem was no more evident than in the third quarter where the Pioneers shot fust 2 of 15 from the field. Despite Culbreath hitting 5 of 6 from the line, Skyline still held onto a 36-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
With game on the line, both teams settled into a grueling, physical battle over the final eight minutes. Each time Millbrook drew close to Skyline’s lead, the Hawks found a way to fight them off, usually by fouling the Pioneers and forcing them to beat them from the line.
But Millbrook was up to the challenge and hit its free throws consistently through the period. The Pioneers also improved significantly from the field during the final period, hitting 5 of 10.
“You really have to congratulate Millbrook,” Bates said. “They really came back. I thought that we controlled the tempo for the majority of the game. They were able to force some critical turnovers and hit their free throws in the second half.”
Culbreath led all scorers with 27 points. Baylor chipped in nine for Millbrook and Eddie Trexler scored eight, including a 4-of-6 performance from the line in the fourth quarter.