Pioneers roll to easy win over Eagles

March 1, 2018

By Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

A big first quarter gave Clare all it needed in its road Jack Pine Conference boys basketball game Friday night. The Pioneers scorched the nets for 34 points in the opening stanza, paving way to a 67-30 victory.

“We jumped out to a big lead early,” Clare head coach Matt Alexander said. “We were able to create turnovers and bad shots, which led to us getting fast break opportunities. It was a nice game to get everyone lots of playing time.”

While the Eagles didn’t see the results they had hoped on the scoreboard, head coach Jason MacLean was still happy with other matters on the court.

“I was extremely happy with our effort,” he said. “Unfortunately our effort isn’t getting us wins but the one thing that this team continues to do is battle for 32 minutes. Clare is well coached, very athletic and has an overall high team basketball IQ and when they play together and unselfishly are the best team in our conference.”

To make matters worse for the Eagles, they were playing without leading scorer Caleb Pitts. Clare had no problem scoring in the opening frame, getting 34 points, led by Jeff Allen and Nick Roe getting seven points apiece and it received six apiece from Kaden Kelly and Brenden Sersaw. The Eagles meanwhile netted just four points, leading to a 34-4 hole after one.

The Pioneers came back to earth in the second, netting 12 points, behind four more by Smith to take a 46-15 lead into the half. The Eagles got a solid second quarter from John Cogswell, who had seven points.

The Pioneers kept it rolling in the second half, outscoring Farwell 15-3 in the third quarter.

Clare was led by Smith with 16 points, Roe had 11 points, Allen finished with 10, Kelly and Tanner Punches had eight apiece and Sersaw finished with six.

The Egales had Cogswell net seven, Brady Jones and Travis Bauer each  had five points and David Gordon had four.

Farwell (1-18 overall, 0-13 JPC) wrapped up its regular season on Thursday when it hosted Gladwin. The Eagles play in the Meridian class ‘C’ district, beginning on Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s game between host Meridian and Coleman.

“I’ll ask my players to give it everything they have,” MacLean said. “Over the past 10-to-12 games we have done that, no matter what the score has been and if you have that they always gives yourselves a chance.”

Clare also played a non-league game at Lake City on Tuesday, a contest it won 77-53.

“We really wanted to get back on track with our rotation and playing at a high level taking us into districts,” Alexander said. “The guys came out with great focus and energy. Our defense was at a level that we have not seen in a few games.”

Smith worked his magic in the paint to net six points in the opening quarter and Punches netted five, all to give Clare a 20-7 lead after one.

In the second, Smith found the bottom of the net for nine more points, with Roe and Kelly getting four each, making it 43-20 at half-time.

Kelly took his turn with the hot hand in the third, as he hit for 11 points, as the Pioneers led 61-39 entering the fourth quarter.

“Offensively, we made the right decisions and got the ball to the right spots,” Alexander said. “I really like the focus that these guys are showing right now leading into districts.”

Smith led the way with a game high 23 points, Kelly was good for 19 points, Punches added 10 points, Sersaw had eight points and Allen netted seven.

Clare (16-3 overall, 10-3 JPC) was in Houghton Lake on Thursday for its last regular season game. The Pioneers open its defense of class ‘B’ district championship in Chippewa Hills on Monday against Shepherd. The semi-finals are set for Wednesday and the championship Friday with host Chip Hills, Alma, Big Rapids and Central Montcalm also in the tournament.

“We know we have a tough district but if we play at the level we are capable of we also know that we have a shot at winning it and making a push for the regional,” Alexander said.

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