Pioneers Hang On To Win at Pinconning, 54-47

February 10, 2020

Shane Jenkins soars in for a uncontested lay-in. Photo by Ben Murphy.
Clare’s Al Warner slips through the middle of the lane for two points during Wednesday’s win at Pinconning. Photo by Ben Murphy.
Hunter Woolston dribbles by a defender. Photo by Ben Murphy.

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

Clare nearly let its Jack Pine Conference boys basketball game slip away at Pinconning Wednesday night. A 7-0 run to close the contest saved the night however, allowing the Pioneers leave town with a 54-47 victory, and keeping them in the thick of things in the league race.

“It was a good win, especially with the sickness we are dealing with on the team right now,” head coach Matt Alexander said. “We were down two of our top seven guys.”

Clare had its lead flutter around 10 points for most of the night, but a late Spartan rally, capped by a three pointer with just under a minute to play knotted things up at 47-apiece.

“During a timeout at that point, we talked about being able to dig deep and to find something right then,” Alexander said. “We put a full-court press on them and they never even saw another shot the rest of the game. We closed it out.”

Jacob Recker was able to put Clare back in front by splitting a pair of free throws and Shane Jenkins lifted Clare to a 50-47 lead after converting on a short-range bucket after a Pinconning turnover. Hunter Woolston followed that by splitting a pair from the line as well, all but icing the game with a 51-47 lead.

“We finally settled down after they hit that late three,” Alexander said. “We have preached all year long that our defense is what we rely on. Al Warner, Mason Clark and Todd Lake really put the pressure on them in our full court press and we were able to turn them over.”

In the opening quarter, the Pioneers had four points apiece from Jenkins and Woolston, as they held a slim 13-12 lead after one.

Clare had that lead grow to 29-22 at the half, thanks to seven points by Woolston in the frame and a trey by Lake.

A field-goal by Recker and a pair of free throws by Clark early in the third gave Clare a 36-26 lead and Lake was able to make it 38-26 by converting on a drive down the right side of the lane.

Woolston capped off the third with a physical lay-in at the basket, giving Clare a 40-30 edge with eight minutes to play.

“Woolston had a good night for us,” Alexander said. “With the guys missing he stepped into the starting role and played really well for us and was just solid throughout the game.”

The fourth quarter started off with another short-range bucket by Woolston to make it 42-33 and shortly after, Lake was able to make a steal near mid-court and raced the other way for a lay-in to put the lead to 44-35.

The Spartans closed the Clare lead to 44-39, though Shane Jenkins was able to extend the lead back to seven points with an uncontested lay-in thanks to a nice entry pass by Woolston.

Pinconning continued its late surge however, going on an 8-1 run to knot the game up at 47-all. From there it was all Clare however.

“For the majority of the game the lead bounced around from eight-to-12 points but in the fourth, I think we lost our legs a little bit and made some foolish turnovers,” Alexander said. “We finally settled down after they hit the late three to tie it.”

Woolston finished with 16 points to lead the way, Lake and Recker netted 10 points each and Clark and Jenkins were able to net eight apiece. Warner chipped in with two.

On Friday, Jan. 31 Clare notched a home win over JPC-foe Shepherd, 42-33.

“Shepherd got out to an early lead but our guys did a great job sticking to the game plan and tied it up after one,” Alexander said. “We finished the half strong, taking a lead into halftime and our defense really got after it in the third only giving up one basket.”

Leading the way in the contest was Woolston with 15 points, Jenkins netted 10, Clark added eight, Lane Ingram had four, Warner added three and with two was Recker.

Clare (10-3 overall, 7-2 JPC) hosts league-leading Beaverton (9-2, 8-1) tonight (Friday) and hosts Meridian (10-3, 7-2) on Friday, Feb. 14. Alexander knows that these next two games will go a long ways in deciding the league champion.

“Our first goal this year was to win the Jack Pine, and really we are in the drivers seat to do that,” he said. “We have it there in front of us to win at least a share of the title if we win both of these home games. We know that both of these games aren’t going to be easy though.”

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