by Brian Turrel
The Piper Pirates defeated the Ottawa Cyclones 66-51 in their season opener Friday evening. The Pirates overcame an early 14-point deficit to earn the victory.
In their first game since their state championship win in March, the Pirates have an almost completely new look, with four new starters and a new head coach.
The new edition of Pirates basketball started out shaky, letting 6-foot, 5-inch Ottawa senior Kobe Johnson control the action in the paint on both ends.
Down 20-6, Piper started its comeback late in the first quarter. Returning starter Tamar Bates became more assertive on the offensive end, earning his own shots off the dribble. Bates scored the final 7 points of the first quarter to pull Piper back to a 20-13 deficit.
Piper continued the comeback in the second quarter, scoring the first 8 points to take a 21-20 lead. Junior guard Dylin Taylor-Cantu found open shots on the edge and hit three 3-pointers in the quarter, including one in the closing seconds of the half to tie the game at 31.
The Pirates extended their lead through the second half, up by 20 until a late flurry of Cyclones defense pulled them back to the final 15-point margin.
Bates led the scoring for Piper with 32 points, while Taylor-Cantu knocked in 14.
Incoming head coach David Birch, most recently an assistant coach at 6A state champs Blue Valley Northwest, started his Piper tenure with a win.
Birch has a storied basketball career. He earned All State honors as a high school player at Olathe East, and he played professionally as a member of the Washington Generals, the standing opponents to the Harlem Globetrotters.
Piper will play next at the De Soto tournament, facing off against Blue Valley Southwest in the opening round on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.