CHILLICOTHE - After the presence of COVID-19 derailed it last season, the annual Zane Trace Tip-Off Classic was back in full effect this weekend.
For the 24th year, the Zane Trace Pioneers hosted a jam-packed weekend of high school basketball that welcomed schools from all over southern Ohio.
Pioneers' head coach, Gary Kellough, talked about his excitement for the return of the event and said that it is an important moment for the community.
"We felt really good about it," Kellough said. "We had good attendance last night and the same went for tonight. I think coming back from COVID that we have had a really successful weekend."
On Friday afternoon, the Lady Pioneers defeated the New Hope Statemens 66-54, to get their second win of the new campaign.
On Saturday evening, it was their male counterparts' turn as they were set to take on the Bishop Ready Silver Knights in their season opener.
Unfortunately, they were unable to do so after the Knights rode a 25-point performance by Kaleb Schaffer guided them to a 76-47 win.
To kick off the game, the Pioneers' offense struggled to get into sync.
They ended the first quarter with five points which came from a made three-pointer by Xzander Ream and a layup by Kyle Stonerock.
The same could not be said for Bishop Ready who rattled off 14 points, nine of them coming from Schaffer.
The second quarter showed much more potential than the first for the Pioneers, especially with the performance of Ream.
To open the new period, he made back-to-back three-pointers, which made the score 14-11.
Ream talked about wanting to bring energy to his team and said that he would have to against a team of the Silver Knights caliber.
"I knew going into this that we were going to have to play well," Ream said. "Bishop Ready is full of talent and I have played with a couple of them in AAU ball, so I know what they are about. I knew that I had to play my best and be the best captain that I can for my team."
Then a layup by Trey Elder made it a 16-13 game as well as helped to give a much-needed boost to the Pioneers.
Unfortunately, it did not last as the Silver Knights got back in control and went on an 8-0 run.
Once again, Ream served as the Pioneers' spark plug and got a steal which he capped off with an authoritative dunk, which got the crowd back on their feet.
Now a 24-15 game, the Pioneers had the chance to ride that excitement, but it was evident that the Silver Knights were not having it.
They went on another run, this time scoring seven straight points and holding Zane Trace to just one point before going into halftime with the 34-16 lead.
Coach Kellough talked about his team's first-half performance and said that it was clear that the group needed more time together.
"We are still a team that is trying to get our chemistry together," Kellough said. "Several of our kids have been in and out of practice, so we are just trying to get everyone back at practice. The kids just have to learn to play better with each other and that takes time."
Once the third quarter got underway, it became clear that the Pioneers would be facing an uphill battle if they wanted to make a comeback.
Like the previous quarters before it points seemed far and few between for multiple stretches, especially during the first few minutes.
Excluding an early putback layup by Stonerock, they were stifled by the Silver Knights.
By the time Zane Trace scored off another layup by Stonerock, they were facing a 44-20 deficit.
As frustrated as the team was, Ream said that they remained focused on staying on track and making plays.
"I feel like whether it is me or someone else, we have to have someone who can give us a spark," Ream said. "Tonight it was me, but there may be a night that I do not have it, but I know that there will be someone who can play that role."
From there, it seemed that the Pioneers' offense began to get into a flow as more shots began to fall.
The quarter's 14 points were of any period, where they had five different players score at least one bucket.
However, they were still in a deep hole, down 58-30 as the game reached its final quarter.
Similar to the second quarter, the Pioneers struck first and opened things up on a 12-5 run, aided heavily by three-pointers by Auston Ison and Ream.
Ream ended up leading his team with 20 points and five three-pointers.
Before they could use their newfound momentum to get too far ahead, the Silver Knights began to make consecutive shots of their own and walked away with the 76-47 victory.
While this is not the way that Coach Kellough wanted his team to open his season, he said that he still saw some positive things that he hopes to build on throughout the year.
"Once we get the team all together we will be fine," Kellough said. "As the second half went on, I think that we got better playing together. So, our goal is to get through those rough spots and prove that we can play through anything."
This article originally appeared on Chillicothe Gazette: Pioneers basketball loses its season opener during Tip-Off Classic