LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Pioneers held on for a 7-point victory against an evenly matched Franklin Grizzlies team at home on Wednesday, 96-89, netting Transylvania its fourth-straight home victory.
Freshman Alex Jones continued his successful comeback leading Pioneer scorers with 20 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Jones went 6-of-16 from the field, 8-of-9 from the free throw line, while grabbing four rebounds.
The story of the night lied in the Pioneer's balanced scoring, who had five scorers in double digits, and nine total players in the scoring column. Sophomore Joe Jennings sparked things for the Pioneers with a double-double, netting15 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Parker Stansberry eclipsed his season average with 17 points and seven rebounds, while teammate freshmen Mason Monroe and Garret Dorfman both finished with 11.
The game favored the Grizzlies early, which managed a 7-0 run in the opening minutes before Head Coach Brian Lane called the first Pioneer timeout. Stansberry started things off by converting an old-fashioned 3-point play which sparked an 11-2 run for the Pioneers, taking their first lead of the game, a lead they would hang on to for the remainder of the contest.
The Grizzlies were forced to play catch-up the entire game, but never could quite match the Pioneers' offensive stamina. The first half saw Transylvania jump out to a lead as big as 11 at the 6-minute mark through stellar down-low play from Jennings. The advantage shrunk to one point after just three minutes of play through impressive shooting and a monster put-back dunk by the Grizzly's Terry Sargent.
But, a technical foul on the play allowed freshman Ethan Rowe to erase the fragile lead with free throws.
The final play of the first half found the Pioneers with just a four-point lead and 30 seconds on the shot clock. Stansberry nailed a contested 3-pointer with three seconds left to send the Pioneers to the locker room with a seven point lead and the momentum, 48-41.
Out of the half, the Pioneers battled back and forth with the Grizzlies through a sluggish start, one not matching the pace and intensity of the first. Four minutes in saw a surge in intensity Jennings extended the lead to 57-46 through a converted basket and an extra foul shot from the charity stripe.
The Pioneers would lean on sophomore Chris Taylor for some valuable minutes and a big layup that gave the Pioneers their biggest lead yet with 12 points, 63-51, with 12:30 remaining.
The Grizzlies, who relied heavily on the perimeter over the course of the matchup, netted three-straight from beyond the arc off the hands of Franklin senior Bailey Howard, the third of which sent him to the line to complete a four-point play, 65-63, in favor of the Pioneers.
It was the duo of Jones and Stansberry who helped to put the Pioneers back to a double-figure lead.
A foul call on a converted Jones field goal resulted in the Grizzly's Sargent earning his second technical of the game and an ejection. Jones knocked down all three free throws, giving the Pioneers a 13-point advantage, 82-69, the largest of the contest with seven minutes left to play.
The Grizzlies we're able to turn up the defensive intensity and knock down key three pointers to battle back to within four with two minutes on the clock, forcing a young Pioneer team to display their ability to finish.
Transylvania would battle back and forth with the Grizzlies, who came within three points with 20 seconds remaining, but couldn't quite break through the resilient Pioneer squad. The Pioneers converted pivotal free throws and break a tough Grizzly press to hold on for the 96-89 win.
Transylvania shot 30-of-58 from the field for 52 percent, but were forced into 15 turnovers due to the stifling Franklin press.
The charity stripe became the difference maker of the contest, as the Pioneers doubled Franklin's points from the line, converting 30 of 36 free throws to Franklin's 15.
The Pioneers will be back in action Saturday, Feb. 15at 5 p.m. as they take on Defiance in their last home game of the season on Senior Day