Thanks to COVID-19 cancellations and the holiday break, the Fort Calhoun Pioneers went 17 days without a basketball game.
Coach TJ O'Conner estimated just two Pioneer practices during that time as well.
Still, the boys had to suck it up and open their home holiday tournament Monday afternoon against Elmwood-Murdock. Senior guard Harrison Schmitt had high expectations.
“Personally, I wanted to play my best game,” he said. “Fly around and kind of set an example for the whole team.”
Fort Calhoun excelled from the start, scoring a 7-0 lead and bouncing the Knights 60-34.
“When our defense is on point, it turns into good offense,” Schmitt said. “That happened tonight.”
He scored 14 points, while Brant Hilzendeger had 15 and the Pioneers improved to 2-3 this season.
“We've got a lot of things that we've still got to fix and we weren't going to fix that in one practice,” O'Conner said. “So, we just talked to our guys and the No. 1 thing we wanted to see was them play hard.”
“We had a couple of lulls, but I was proud of their effort,” the coach said.
It started from the first possession. FCHS' Tylan Conner earned the ball at the jump and Hilzendeger sunk the game's first shot from 3-point range. Michael Shirley added three more on his team's second long-range attempt and the Pioneers were off, never trailing.
Schmitt played defensive-disturber from the start. The senior earned steals, scored layups and even knocked down two of his own 3-pointers during the Pioneers' 26-point win — their first victory since Dec. 5.
“(Harrison) just has that ability to raise the energy in the room,” O'Conner said. “He can either raise the energy or suck the energy out, and that's a lot of responsibility. But I've been so proud of his approach to things this year and how he's carried himself.”
The guard carried himself to a standout performance against the Knights.
“He set the tone for us today. He really did,” O'Conner added. “He was all over the place and that's a huge deal for our basketball team.”
In addition to Hilzendeger's 15 points and Schmitt's 14, Shirley and Carsen Schwarz added 12 apiece in the Pioneers' first game in more than two weeks. The victory pushed Fort Calhoun into its own holiday tournament final against Logan View/Scribner-Snyder.
Pioneers topple Raiders
Zane Schwarz scored 12 fourth-period period points after the Raiders tied the score, leading Fort Calhoun to a 48-45 victory Wednesday.
The win earned the Pioneers their holiday tournament title and pushed their season record to 3-3. Logan View fell to 5-2 in defeat.
FCHS trailed 6-4 during the first period before five-straight points to end the 8-minute quarter — on made shots by Grayson Bouwman and Hilzendeger — put the Pioneers out front. From there, 3-pointers by Shirley and Bouwman pushed Calhoun's advantage to as many as 10 points during the second.
The Raiders came back to tie the game at 31, however, spurred on by two blocked shots by 6-foot-9 Garrett Kriete — who also led LVSS in scoring with 14 points — at the close of the third period.
Schwarz answered the the Raiders' game-tying, fourth-quarter bucket, though, knocking down a 3-pointer. The junior finished with 16 points as did Hilzendeger.