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February 22, 2014

Winamac pummels Pioneer, wins MWC outright

Bentle scores 18 in second half as Warriors pull away.

ROYAL CENTER — Winamac made the short trip south Friday night to take on the Pioneer Panthers with hopes of keeping their unbeaten record in conference play and at least a share of the MWC title.

It was no problem as the Warriors easily routed the Panthers 73-36 to go 6-0 in league play on the year. As it turns out, the six wins is enough to claim the championship outright with the Caston loss to Tri-County Friday.

Jeremy Bentle scored all of his game-high 18 points in the second half for the Warriors to help break open what was a 25-19 game at halftime.

“This was a great coached game by our coaches. They had us ready and what they wanted us to do was working. I just tried to be as aggressive as I could be and I had some success with it,” said Bentle.

Pioneer coach Austin Cowley credited the Warriors.

“First off, you have to give credit to coach Johnson and his team,” he said. “Winamac’s a good team and he’s got them playing very well this time of year. They’re very strong, physical team. They were able to bump us off our cuts and screens and your offense can’t get any rhythm going on offense when that’s happening. We had a little run in the first half but our scorer ended up going cold and that came to a halt. We tried to do the things that have been working for us but Winamac just took those away from us.”

Pioneer (2-14, 1-5 MWC) entered the game knowing that the Warriors (10-7 overall) were a physical team. But to go against them may have been a bit overwhelming for the Panthers. Winamac pressured defensively and relied heavily on Colin McGee early in the game. Things were still tight midway through the first quarter until Winamac went on their first run. When the run hit 7-0, Cowley took an early timeout to talk things over at the 2:24 mark. The run hit 10-0 before the Panthers’ Chad Clifford was fouled and hit two free throws with :03 left. A Winamac turnover gave the ball back to Pioneer, but the Panthers were unable to score on the play and the first quarter ended with a 14-6 Winamac lead.

When play resumed in the second quarter Pioneer seemed a different team. Taking their time on offense they went on their own 10-0 run to take a 16-14 lead. But Winamac again found McGee inside and he delivered to even things back up. Late in the quarter the Warriors again went on a short 5-0 burst to take a 25-19 lead into the break.

Bentle became a man possessed when he took the court in the third quarter. His play was nothing short of domination as he scored his game-high 18 points all in the second half.

With his inspired play the Warriors started to feed off him and the lead started to become too much for the Panthers. By the end of the frame Winamac had opened up a 46-27 lead over the host Panthers.

As the final quarter started the Warriors went to Bentle on back-to-back possessions and the senior delivered each time. His quick start forced another Pioneer timeout with 6:59 left in the game. Shortly after Warriors coach Kyle Johnson started to go to his bench as did the Panthers. With mainly reserves playing the last two and half minutes of the game Winamac went on to the 73-36 win.

Bentle led the Warriors with 18 points while McGee ended the night with 12 of his own.

Clifford and Zach Mason both finished with nine points for the Panthers. Caleb Kindley was next highest with six points.

“We kind of sped up the play tonight because that’s been working for us,” said Panther Keith Nies. “We should’ve done a better job of working the ball inside more. There just things that we need to work on to get better. We all need to work on fundamentals more and we need to get stronger to compete against these stronger teams.”

Johnson was proud of his squad for securing another big MWC win on the road, the Warriors’ third in four nights. They won five league games in nine days.

“I’m very, very proud of my guys. I thought they played very unselfishly and we still have things to work on though. We have to work on cutting down on the number of turnovers we have,” he said. “Jeremy played well tonight and I’m happy for him. J.T. came in and hit some big 3s and I’m just thrilled with the way the seniors have been playing.

“What a special guy [Bentle]. He’s a senior and he’s coming off the bench and he leads our team in what was one of our biggest games of the year. Good things happen to good people and he deserves this.”

Winamac hosts Caston Tuesday. Pioneer travels to Delphi tonight.

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