Pioneers fell Oakers with defensive gem
LINCOLN – Western Mennonite wasn’t about to wow Oakland with its size or its speed.
Instead, the Pioneers took down the Oakers – the reigning Class 2A state champions – with defense and guile.
Victor Hess had 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals as one of four Western Mennonite players in double figures in the Pioneers’ 55-47 victory over Oakland in Class 2A nonleague play. The game was a matchup of the No. 2-ranked (Oakland) and No. 3-ranked (Western Mennonite) teams in the Class 2A coaches’ poll.
“It is amazing for our confidence,” Pioneers junior Jon Stubblefield said. “Knowing that they’re the defending champs … going into state, we’ve got a shot to take it all.”
Western Mennonite’s defense against a tall and athletic Oakers squad makes a convincing case. The Pioneers forced 18 Oakland turnovers while holding it to 30 field goal attempts (46.7 percent shooting). Western outrebounded the Oakers 24-15 despite their size disadvantage.
“Our defense – we just fly around,” Stubblefield said. “That’s where we get our momentum from.”
Wyatt Roth, Alex Martinez and Trevor Oyer each scored 10 points for Western Mennonite (11-2). Stubblefield and Jon Gray each added seven points.
Oakland (6-3) started the game on an 11-2 run before the Pioneers roared back to take a 16-13 lead after the first quarter.
Both teams largely held their own in the second quarter, and the Oakers tied the game in the third quarter with three-pointers by Austin Baimbridge and Roy Benzel. Martinez was aggressive in driving to the basket, scoring seven of his 10 points in the third quarter as the Pioneers maintained a four-point lead entering the fourth.
“Alex will step up and hit a three at big moments,” Stubblefield said. “He has great timing.”
The Pioneers ground the pace to a halt in the fourth quarter and continued to bother the Oakers with their defense. Western Mennonite scored at least one point on nine of its 10 possessions in the quarter as it kept Oakland at bay.
“In the fourth quarter, patience was the main key,” Stubblefield said. “If we had a wide-open lane, (we would) take it. If not, (we would) just work the ball around.”
Jeb Harper led the Oakers with 10 points and four rebounds.
The Pioneers hosted Kennedy in their first Class 2A Tri-River Conference game on Monday night. Western Mennonite travels to Halsey to face Central Linn on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Western Mennonite 57, Regis 41
STAYTON – Wyatt Roth scored 16 points, and Victor Hess had 11 points and eight rebounds as the Pioneers defeated the Rams in Class 2A nonleague play Friday.
Western Mennonite outscored Regis 14-4 in the second quarter and held the Rams to 36.4-percent shooting (16-of-44) in the victory.