Ryan Conwell leads Pike past Zionsville
Zionsville refused to let Pike enjoy his senior night peacefully, in what turned into a roller coaster on Saturday night with lead after lead change.
When the No. 3 Class 4A Eagles faltered during the final moments of the fourth quarter, the continued absence of their star goaltender, Logan Imes, proved costly. On the other side, the Red Devils were reaping the benefits of their own senior star, as Ryan Conwell caught fire to help them slip past with a 60-56 win.
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“I know they had a few guys tonight, but they all seem up for the challenge when they come up against us,” Pike’s coach Bill Zych said. “When they see the Pike jersey, they pick themselves up. So we had to match their intensity.
That intensity didn’t show until the second quarter, as the first eight minutes were hardly an indicator of what the game was to become. Botched turnovers plagued both teams, with each offense looking like a fraction of itself in a 5-5 first quarter.
While the sloppiness somewhat seeped into the second half, the stagnant attack did not. Pike opened the quarter with a huge slam from second Cam Caskey – an invigorating jam that seemed to create some distance. But outside of junior guard Devon Woods, the Red Devils struggled to find a clean look, particularly when operating through Conwell.
Conwell was repeatedly met at his destination, isolated from the edge and forced to throw ill-advised jumpers his way to shoot 1 of 8 into the half. Woods kept Pike above water, delivering some timely pulling jumpers and impressive passing to keep things in the Red Devils favor.
But Woods wasn’t enough to fend off Zionsville, as guard Jonathan Macabee, who finished with 18 points, kept the Eagles with his seven points in the first half.
The second half saw a much cleaner attack and a legitimate tussle. The game saw as many as nine lead changes and three draws, with much of the back-and-forth in the third quarter. Zionsville guard Edward Thomas took on some of the charge, shooting a perfect 5 of 5 from the field for 15 points, including 13 in the second half.
Yet even when the Eagles looked at their best, the Red Devils always seemed to turn around with a response. When Zionsville entered the half with some momentum after tying things up, Pike came out on a 4-0 run that was capped by a dunk from forward Dante Porch. When Thomas drilled a massive 3 late in the quarter to take a 30-28 lead, Porch responded on the next possession with a 3 of his own. When the Eagles regained the lead at the free throw line, Pike answered along with 3 more to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
Through it all, Conwell quietly picked up a pace and began to find his bearings. So it made sense that he would hold the ball as the third quarter clock waned, surveying the ground before moving his defender out of play and drilling a jumper at the sound of the buzzer.
Moments later, Conwell isoed again to start the fourth quarter. The middle zone called him, and he answered. The South Florida engage shifted the ball from hand to hand before planting his feet for him and shooting in the defender’s face for two more – while being fouled.
At that point, it became his game.
“After halftime, I just relaxed,” Conwell said. “My teammates just told me to keep my head up, to keep going. Really, their confidence in me helped boost my confidence going into the second half. I knew I had to have a big second half for us were winning.
Zionsville put up a valiant effort in the fourth quarter, but after a one-legged jumper just minutes after his one-and-one, Conwell’s timely baskets became too much to handle. After his cold start, the 6-3 guard went 7 of 11 in the second half to finish with 23 points, three rebounds and three assists.
It made sense that his pair of free throws with 30 seconds left would put the game out of reach.
“Ryan Conwell,” Zionsville coach JR Howell said when asked how Pike had distanced himself. “I mean we held it down to four in the first half, and I think they were all in transition. I said at half-time, he’s a good player, he’s going to score points. … We fought until the end and had a few chances. Not having Logan (Imes) hurts us in those situations, but it’s been a great experience for the guys who were on the pitch.
The Eagles (10-5) suffered their fourth loss in five games, while the Red Devils (12-4) recovered from a one-point loss at home to Franklin Central earlier in the week. With Conwell helping prevent Zionsville from upsetting Pike’s senior night, victory got even sweeter.
“It’s a big win, especially with the senior night,” Conwell said. “But we don’t want to sit on this win too much because we have another game to come. But we’re just happy to win another game.”