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Pioneers clinch 2nd in conference play

By: Sean Ditmore/Sports Writer

     The No. 22 Wayland Pioneers regained sole possession of second place in the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) with a 67-62 road victory over 12th ranked Southern Nazarene on Saturday.
      The Pioneers took the game to the SNU Crimson Storm early, leading by as much as 11 in the first half. The Pioneers led 35-28 at halftime.
     “At home, I’m confident that we can beat any team, but it’s a different story on the road,” Wayland Coach Robert Davenport said. “You just have to play it out and see what happens. I think this afternoon we came out ready to win more than they did.”
      The Pioneers continued to dominate the game as the second half began. Sophomore Jason Griffin opened the half with a pair of three pointers. The Pioneers’ lead would rise to 20 points with 15 minutes to play.
      Then it all began to unravel.
      Over the next 12 minutes SNU out-scored Wayland 24-4. The game was tied at 58 with only 3:07 remaining.
     “Even when we got up by 20, I knew it would be close at the end,” Davenport said. “They are too good of a team to let us blow them out.”
      In the end, it was Wayland’s veteran players who finished off the Crimson Storm. During the final stretch of the game the Pioneers got timely free-throws from Senior Lee Berend and a critical slam dunk by Tony Jones, another senior.
     “This is a senior-heavy team and you expect those guys to come through and make the plays when you need them and they did,” Davenport said. “Tony (Jones) had a big game. He had 17 points, and was a game changer, especially defensively. Kris (Hatley) came up with some big steals and did a good job passing the ball around.”
      Jones led the Pioneers in scoring with 17 points. Griffin added 14 points of his own while draining four three-pointers.
      The 22nd ranked Pioneers are now 14-7 on the season, and have a 10-4 record in conference play.