Bear River holds off Pioneer in boys basketball |

Bear River holds off Pioneer in boys basketball

Bear River's Charlie Espinoza goes up for a layup during a game against Pioneer Tuesday at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium. Bear River won 55-43.
Photo by Brian O’Brien |

Not every game is won with a masterpiece of athleticism and execution — sometimes you have to win ugly.

That’s how the Bear River boys basketball team did it Tuesday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium, overcoming 20 turnovers and long cold streaks to beat Pioneer, 55-43.

“It was a little frustrating tonight,” Bear River head coach Duwaine Ganskie said. “We weren’t clicking offensively, and that was something we talked about in the locker room. We’ve made some strides getting better with our offensive flow, but tonight was a little bit stagnant, but credit Pioneer with some good defense.”

It was Bear River’s seniors who would be the ones to step up and lead the Bruins to victory.

Senior Charlie Espinoza, the Bruins’ lone returning starter, scored 14 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds and five assists. Senior Braden Duncan led the team with 17 points, scoring most of his points from the paint but also hitting a 3-pointer as the first-quarter buzzer rang, giving the Bruins an 11-8 edge at the time.

“I don’t want to go in there with the mindset to just shoot, shoot, shoot,” Espinoza said. “But if there is an opportunity to get some offense going I feel like, and Braden, too, that both of us can step it up and be the one that does that.”

Bear River (4-3) scored on its opening possession, a jumper from senior center Jared Skowronski, but after that went cold, not scoring again until three minutes left in the quarter. The Bruins hit the Patriots with a barrage of scoring coming from Ben O’Lena and Zach Quirarte, which was capped by Duncan’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

The second quarter mirrored the first in that the Bruins hit an early shot but went cold immediately after. Pioneer used that cold streak to regain the lead at 16-14.

Duncan then went on a tear with three straight baskets, two of which came on Espinoza assists. O’Lena added two free throws and a layup, and Tommy Herider laid one in to put Bear River up 26-18 at half. O’Lena, a sophomore, scored all of his eight points in the first half.

In the third, Pioneer opened on a 5-0 run, but a Skowronski jumper broke the Patriot momentum. Skowronski finished with nine points and five rebounds.

“Jared Skowronski really stepped up,” Ganskie said. “If they leave him open, he’s not afraid to take that shot. He was knocking them down tonight, and he’s our defensive anchor. If we over-extend, he steps in and takes charges, and he’s done that all season.”

Skowronski’s jumper started a 16-7 run for the Bruins, giving them a 42-30 advantage heading into the final quarter.

In the final stanza, Pioneer opened with six straight points, but again, the Bruins weathered the storm and answered with one of their own. Espinoza, Duncan and Skowronski combined to score the Bruins’ final 13 points and put the game away.

“They are really stepping up as seniors, and I like the way they are playing,” Ganskie said. “We don’t have the size to do that classic outside-in with the post, but with their athleticism, they are able to penetrate with the dribble, get into the key and draw attention and create a shot for themselves or a teammate.”

The Bruins are back at it Thursday for the Victory Christian Tournament.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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