Pioneers win third straight, top La Verne 62-59

Pioneers win third straight, top La Verne 62-59

LA VERNE, Calif.—A stingy defensive effort along with clutch free throws from senior guard Tommy Sirkin thwarted a late La Verne run, as the Transylvania University men's basketball team picked up its third straight win with a 62-59 win Thursday at Frantz Court.  Sophomore guard Alex Jones logged 17 points and four rebounds, while junior forward Parker Stansberry added 11 points and six rebounds in the win. Freshman guard Jake Williams went 4-for-6 from long range and finished with 14 points.

"We followed the defensive game plan to a  't' and got a couple double digit leads," head coach Brian Lane said. "We need to be better at getting a lead and pushing it out even further."

The Pioneers held an 11-point lead, the largest of the contest, with 5:19 to play, before a late 12-3 run from La Verne cut the Transylvania lead to three with :55 left to play. A bucket from Hakim Arnold pulled the Leopards within one, before two clutch free throws from Sirkin sealed the win for the Pioneers.

Transylvania opened the second half with an 8-2 run less than two minutes into the half to take a 37-28 lead.  The Leopards slowly chipped away at the lead with six unanswered points narrowing the Transylvania lead to 39-36 with 14:07 left.

After a Transylvania timeout, the Pioneers sparked an 11-6 run to extend the lead back to eight, 50-42. Two free throws from Sergeant helped ignite the run, before Sirkin picked the pocket of Conner Head which led to an easy bucket for Sirkin. Stansberry and Williams capped the run for the Pioneers with three-pointers on consecutive possessions to widen the gap back to eight.

The Pioneers jumped out to a commanding 12-3 early as freshman Robert Dence capped the nine-point lead with a layup with 13:54 left to play in the first half.  La Verne converted on several trips down the floor, but the offensive production continued by the Pioneers. David Keyer and Sam Sergeant both added baskets, before a layup from Jones widened the margin back to nine with 6:55 remaining.

The Leopards netted two of their five baskets from three-point land on back-to-back possessions to cut the Transylvania lead to three, 24-21, with 2:16 left before the break. Williams landed his second three-pointer of the half, before Stansberry forced a turnover and found Jones for the lay in with :43 showing on the clock giving the Pioneers a six-point advantage, 29-23. La Verne cut the lead in half before the break with a three-point basket from Brett Stephan.

"This team continues to make great strides," Lane said. "Alex had another solid performance and Parker came up with some big points inside. We had nice production off the bench and Tommy hit two huge free throws to take the lead to three."

"It is enjoyable to see this team grow and mature," Lane said. "We will continue to need more guys on the bench step up and play crucial minutes."

The Pioneers (3-5, 1-2 HCAC) return to action Sunday, Dec. 28 as they take on Berry College in the Don Lane Classic at the Clive M. Beck Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday and live stats are available here.