The Piper Pirates basketball team won its home opener Friday against Ottawa 73-53.
Jaron Briggs hit two three-pointers in the first quarter to establish his presence outside, but the Cyclones were able to keep pace, and finished the quarter tied at 14.
Piper started to pull away in the second quarter, outscoring the Cyclones by 10. Ottawa had only two made baskets in the quarter, but made 8 of 12 free throw attempts. Piper made three 3-pointers, one each from Colin Vigil, Gannon Roth, and Alex Ivanuska.
The third quarter was a slugfest of defense. There were 25 combined shots from the free throw line, and the frequent whistles slowed the game. The atmosphere on the court was becoming chippy, and the referees dispensed offsetting technical fouls at one point to get the teams’ attention.
The Pirates got the better of the third-quarter scrap, thanks in part to two 3-pointers from Roth, and they ended the quarter with a 56-40 advantage.
Vigil and Roth both struck again from the outside in the fourth quarter, and the Pirates extended the lead to 20 at the final whistle.
Jaron Briggs led the Pirates with 26 points, including 10 of 13 from the free throw line. Gannon Roth added 17 points off the bench, including four 3-pointers. Alex Ivanuska scored 11.
Now 1-0, the Pirates will play next week in the Huhtamaki Hardwood Classic, held by De Soto High School. The opening game will be against Olathe Northwest at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
After losing five starters from last year’s team, the Piper girls’ basketball team begins the 2021-2022 season with a fresh start and a roster light on experience. The young team lost their season opener to the Ottawa Lady Cyclones 45-35 on Friday.
The Lady Pirates got off to a slow start, picking up only one basket in the first quarter. Piper’s tightly packed zone defense also limited Ottawa’s output, and the first half finished 20-10 in Ottawa’s favor.
The game opened up in the second half, and Ottawa stayed patient to stretch the Piper defense. Abbie Roth and Tatum Vallejo hit three-point shots for Piper in the fourth quarter, and Sage Grann got two three-point opportunities on drives to the basket.
The Lady Pirates pulled within 6 points midway through the fourth quarter, but Ottawa made timely baskets to hold the final margin at 10.
Grann made an impact on both ends of the court, leading the team with 17 points and also finding a knack for snagging errant passes to start a fast break. She also shared ball-handling duties with freshman point guard Avary Vallejo.
Marissa Covington scored 10 points in the game and also secured multiple defensive rebounds.
The Piper Lady Pirates will participate starting Monday in the Huhtamaki Hardwood Classic held by De Soto High School.
For the second time in as many meetings, Real Salt Lake delivered a loss to Sporting Kansas City with a goal in stoppage time. The stakes were bigger the second time around, and the loss ended Kansas City’s season on Sunday in front of 21,650 fans at standing-room-only Children’s Mercy Park.
Kansas City held a 1-0 halftime lead thanks to a Johnny Russell penalty kick in the 21st minute. Gadi Kinda earned the penalty when he was hit with a late challenge by Aaron Herrera just inside the Salt Lake 18-yard box.
Kansas City had a chance to double the lead in the 45th minute when Remi Walter won a challenge in the Salt Lake end and fired a long-range blast up the middle, but Walter’s shot was just wide to the right.
Salt Lake upped its offensive intensity in the second half. Though the visitors didn’t record a shot in the first 20 minutes after the break, they then created 5 shots in quick succession, including the equalizer in the 73rd minute. Andrew Brody crossed the ball from the left wing for Anderson Julio to nod in.
After conceding the goal, Kansas City was on the back foot for the remainder of the match though the team held off Salt Lake’s pressure through regulation.
As the clock hit 90 minutes, overtime looked certain, but Salt Lake got four players out on a fast break in the first minute of stoppage time. The Kansas City defense was slow to recover, and Justin Meram played a cross from the left side to Bobby Wood who redirected it to the far corner of the goal.
A shocked silence settled across the stadium, and Sporting’s late, frantic efforts went for naught.
After the match, head coach Peter Vermes questioned his team’s engagement in the game.
“We just weren’t out putting pressure on them,” Vermes said. “We gave them too much time and space on the ball. If you just look at their two goals, we have chances to win the ball, chase the guy down, and we just weren’t there. We weren’t there. We weren’t in the game as we normally are for some reason.”
Team captain Russell agreed with the coach about the lack of pressure.
“We sat back too much,” the Scottish forward said. “[We] gave them way too much respect, gave way too much of the ball and when you camp that far in your half, they’re going to create chances. Unfortunately for us, they took them.”
Salt Lake advances to the conference final where it will face the Portland Timbers, who won their semi-final Thursday against Seattle.
The MLS season will start earlier than usual next year, due to the 2022 World Cup. Kansas City’s first match will be at Atlanta on Feb. 27, with the home opener March 5.