Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — When comparing last year’s Zane Trace roster to this season’s, it’s night and day.
The Pioneers all five of their starters from a year ago, a group that led the program to two consecutive district titles.
Needless to say, coming into the 2020-21 season, not many expect much from coach Gary Kellough’s group.
But the road to the SVC title still runs through Kinnikinnick. And on Friday, a young group reminded their peers of that fact with an impressive 60-48 win over visiting Paint Valley.
“It’s different. We’re a really young team but we have heart. That’s all we’ve got. And that’s what we need to win games,” senior Trey Miller said. “A lot of people don’t think we’ll be good because we lost our starting five. People are thinking we’re underdogs. But we’re striving every day to get the W.”
Miller was superb all night long, weaving his way through the Bearcats’ defense and finishing with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Meanwhile, sophomore Kyle Stonerock had his way in the paint, totaling a team-high 15 points, eight coming in the first quarter, and seven boards.
Those two set the tone and their teammates followed.
“I just went out there and wanted to stay positive. It’s just making sure everyone is working hard,” Stonerock said. “As long as we keep working hard, we’re going to be good this year. We just have to stay positive and have to work as a team.”
With the game tied 4-4 in the first quarter, Stonerock dropped three straight buckets to give the Pioneers (2-2, 1-0 SVC) a 10-4 lead with 3:17 to go. Miller made it 12-4 at the 2:51 mark and, heading into the second, Zane Trace led 16-7.
In the second, both teams traded baskets. Stonerock scored, and was fouled, to make it 19-7 before PV’s Cordell Grubb and Dax Estep found a bit of a rhythm. But the Bearcats (1-2, 0-1 SVC) couldn’t take a significant bite into the lead as ZT led 31-20 at the break.
In the third, Grubb and Estep brought Paint Valley to within four at 33-29. But that’s when ZT’s Xzander Ream buried a 3 before Carter Hill hit a pair of free throws to make it a 40-33 game. By the start of the fourth, ZT had regained their nine-point advantage at 46-37.
In the fourth, the Pioneers started to pull away. The group used a 7-0 run to take a 58-41 edge before eventually nailing down a 12-point win to start the SVC slate.
“Like I said, as long as we stay positive and we go out and work hard, I think we’ve got this,” Stonerock said. “We have the potential to be a good team.”
After Stonerock and Miller’s totals, Ben Nichols ended with eight points and four rebounds while Hill had six points and six boards. Nalin Robinson also helped out, scoring five points and grabbing five rebounds.
Grubb led Paint Valley statistically with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists while Estep added 17 points and six boards.
Both teams will be back in action on Saturday. Zane Trace hosts Huntington while Paint Valley welcomes Southeastern to Bainbridge.
Paint Valley: 7-14-16-11 — 48
Zane Trace: 16-14-16-14 — 60
Paint Valley: 18-54 FG, 8-16 FT, 4-14 3pt., 27 rebounds (Estep 6), 14 turnovers, 9 assists (Grubb 3, Mettler 3). Scoring: Estep 17, Grubb 16, Mettler 4, Blanton 4, Byrd 3, Jeffers 2, Hall 2.
Zane Trace: 23-47 FG, 9-16 FT, 4-13 3pt., 36 rebounds (Stonerock 7), 16 turnovers, 10 assists (Miller 4). Scoring: Stonerock 15, Miller 11, Nichols 8, Ream 6, Hill 6, Ison 5, Robinson 5, Jarrell 2, Nelson 2.