Western Mennonite boys basketball crushes Kennedy

By ROBERT HUSSEMAN

Of the News-Register

LINCOLN – The Western Mennonite boys basketball team has struggled with inconsistency throughout the 2014-15 season.

In Wednesday night’s Class 2A Tri-River Conference playoff game against Kennedy, the Pioneers served notice to the entirety of Class 2A.

“That was amazing,” senior guard Wyatt Roth said. “Ridiculous. My favorite game of the year.”

Roth caught fire early on and remained hot against the Trojans, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting (6-for-10 from beyond the three-point line). Fellow senior Alex Martinez filled up the stat sheet with 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Kennedy, fresh off an upset of Tri-River No. 1 seed Regis on Feb. 13, looked to solidify its status as a Class 2A state playoff team. Instead, the Trojans were run out of The Barn in a 65-37 victory for the Pioneers.

“That was one of the best team performances of our entire season,” Western Mennonite forward Jacobe DeJong said.

Case in point: the Pioneers (18-7, 10-4 TRC) shot 52.2 percent from the field (24-of-46) and a blistering 48.0 percent from the beyond the three-point line (12-of-25). Western Mennonite assisted on 17 of its baskets, committed five total turnovers and exerted a stranglehold on the game’s tempo for 28 of the 32 minutes.

The four minutes the Trojans (17-9, 8-6 TRC) imposed their will were the first four minutes of the game. Kennedy collected six offensive rebounds and converted two three-point plays. On the latter, Trojans freshman post Anthony Sprauer, the tallest player in the game at 6-foot-4, used his size to convert a layup in traffic. Western Mennonite was without starting post Simeon Hess (right leg injury), and the 6-foot-4 DeJong recorded three first-half fouls.

Size mattered in those first four minutes. Speed killed in the other 28.

Roth made back-to-back three-pointers to give Western the lead; he, Martinez and Sam Armold (eight points) made a combined seven three-pointers. Reserve guard Trevor Oyer stole an inbounds pass from the Trojans, made a layup and was fouled in the process in the first quarter, at which point the cheers from the home crowd increased sharply in decibel level.

When the halftime buzzer sounded, Western Mennonite led 42-18, its first-quarter deficit a mere memory.

The Trojans could not take advantage of DeJong’s foul trouble, taking four three-pointers (Kennedy missed all four) and committing four turnovers to open the third quarter. The Pioneers kept the partisan crowd involved as DeJong scored off an inbounds play and Roth made three consecutive three-pointers in an 80-second span.

Junior guard Colby Williams added to Kennedy’s growing list of concerns with suffocating defense on the ball and in passing lanes. The 5-foot-10 Williams, “the quickest player on our team,” according to Martinez, finished with six points and two steals but accounted for many more loose balls.

“The second half of the season, he’s been amazing,” Martinez said. “He was attacking everything.”

Next up for the Pios: avenging two league losses to first-place Regis in the TRC championship game. The longtime rivals square off Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis.

“Saturday’s going to be tough,” DeJong said. “It’s going to be tough. (But) we’re at the right moment in the season.”

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