Late free throws help Pioneers clinch another HCAC win, top Franklin 78-71

Late free throws help Pioneers clinch another HCAC win, top Franklin 78-71

FRANKLIN, Ind.—A 22-point halftime lead and late free throws helped the Transylvania University men's basketball team to their ninth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference win, putting the Pioneers in prime position to make a run with three conference games remaining.

Sophomore Alex Jones knocked down a three-pointer in the opening possession of the second half to give the Pioneers their largest lead of the game, 48-23, with 19:19 left to play. Franklin responded with an 11-0 run to pull within 14 thanks to a layup from Jim Mace.

Junior Parker Stansberry knocked down three of his nine points when he hit a shot from behind-the-arc with 13:46 remaining, before netting a jumper, keeping the Pioneer lead at 16. After Franklin's Brandon Scruggs answered with a long ball, Jones connected on a deep ball to keep the Pioneers' lead at 16.

With less than two minutes to play, Scruggs knocked down another three-pointer to pull the Grizzlies within seven, 73-66. Franklin forced a late Transylvania turnover before Aaron Mann netted a three with 39 seconds to play.

Stansberry connected on two free throws giving the Pioneers a four-point cushion with 30 seconds remaining. The Pioneer defense came up with a clutch stop, as Stansberry denied a shot from Mann and Burgess picked up the loose ball before drawing the foul. Burgess calmly knocked down both free throws to put Transylvania up six, 77-71.

Burgess picked the pocket of Franklin's Trae Washington keeping the Grizzlies at bay, before knocking down the final point of the contest to seal the win for the Pioneers.

The Pioneers led 10-8 early, before a three-pointer from sophomore Alex Jones to put Transylvania up five, 13-8, with 14:46 left in the first half. Franklin answered with two straight buckets to tie at 15 before the Pioneers sparked a 15-2 run.

Jones found freshman Tim Bickel inside to ignite the run. Parker Stansberry, David Keyer and Jones each added baskets in a span of less than a minute, along with two free throws from senior Tommy Sirkin building a 10-point lead, 25-15, with 8:38 remaining.

Jones and the Pioneers defense forced back-to-back turnovers that led to fast break points extending the lead to 30-15. With a 16-point lead, freshman Tristan Burgess knocked down back-to-back three-pointers giving the Pioneers a 20-point lead with 1:27 to go. Jones found the basket following a defensive rebound to close the half with the Pioneers up 45-23.

Jones led the Pioneers with 29 points, four rebounds, five assists and a career-high six steals. Stansberry tallied 13 points to go with nine rebounds and two blocks. Burgess finished with nine points on 2-for-3 shooting from long range and Sirkin added four points and six assists.

The Pioneers travel to Defiance College Saturday for another HCAC contest. Saturday's game is slated for 3 p.m.