Men’s basketball season comes to an end

Pioneers lose by one point to finish out the tournament season.

The Pioneer men’s basketball team hosted the NCAA  Division III Sweet Sixteen game on Friday, Mar. 9, against the Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolves. The Pioneers lost to the Prairie Wolves by a score of 79-78. The Pioneers ended with a final record of 25-4. The leaders of the night consisted of junior Robert Duax with 22 points, senior Trey Sigel with 15 points and junior Clay Gerds with 13 rebounds.

“Nothing different [was said before the game] than what we had talked throughout the entire year. The message every game was our points of emphasis offensively and defensively and our game goals. At the end of the day it was just about going out and controlling what we can control. Be the aggressor on the offensive and defensive end of the floor,” men’s basketball head coach Jeff Gard said.

The Prairie Wolves were the first to score and went on a 6-0 run before the Pioneers found their groove, making back-to-back threes. The Pioneers played aggressively on offense by having good post movement and kick-outs in the Prairie Wolf 2-3 zone and on defense with the Pioneers’ man-to-man defense.

The Prairie Wolves held onto the lead by a basket until the Pioneers scored a three to take the lead. The score was 11-10 with just under 16 minutes left in the first half. The Pioneers were outrebounding the Prairie Wolves which resulted in multiple attempted baskets and longer possessions of the ball.

The Pioneers kept the lead until the Prairie Wolves tied the score at 22 with eight and a half minutes left in the first half. The Prairie Wolves took the lead, 24-22, and kept it for roughly three minutes while the Pioneers struggled to make a basket.

The Pioneers regained the lead and the score was neck and neck until the last two and a half minutes of the first half when the Pioneers had back-to-back turnovers. These turnovers resulted in a three-point basket by the Prairie Wolves. Carter Voelker blocked a shot attempted by the Prairie Wolves and scored a layup to end the half, 37-45.

“[At halftime] we talked about defensive assignments that we missed. We needed to clean up and contain the basketball and not allow their dribble penetration to hurt us. From the offensive side of things, trying to get more movement with the basketball and more movement without the basketball [such] as cuts and guys finding openings in their zone,” Gard said.

Pioneers started the second half with the ball. A couple minutes went by before either team made a basket but once each team scored, the score remained close throughout the second half. The Pioneers scored a three-pointer to tie at 55, which gave them momentum and flustered the Prairie Wolves into bonus half-way through the second half.

The Prairie Wolves pulled ahead 71-66 with four and half minutes left and picked up their intensity on defense which put the Pioneers in bonus. The last two minutes consisted of each team making back-to-back buckets. Pioneers caught up 74-75 with 13 seconds left. The Prairie Wolves scored a two-pointer and were up by one. The Pioneers had three seconds to make a basket, but the hoop could not be found.

“It’s an unreal feeling [being a freshman in the tournament atmosphere]. Especially knowing that we have some of the most supportive fans in the crowd cheering us on. Something that I’ll cherish forever considering the group of guys we had this year,” freshman guard Quentin Shields said.

The Pioneers outrebounded the Prairie Wolves 38-31 and shot 100 percent from the free throw line. They shot 44 percent field goal range and 25 percent from the arc.

“It’s always so fun to end your career with a season like we just had. To be able and win the WIAC regular season championship and host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament is something special [that] doesn’t come around all that often,” senior guard Trey Sigel said.