University Center, MI-
With five games remaining in the conference schedule, the Delta College men's basketball team was in a must win situation Wednesday night. To stay in the top four positions in the MCCAA Eastern Conference standings, the Pioneers would need to get a home victory over the Mott Bears. Mott was coming into the contest in dire need of a victory as well. They were forced to forfeit several league games and were fighting to get into playoff position. Earlier in the season, the Bears defeated the Pioneers 109-107 in double overtime but unfortunately for Mott that victory would be one of the games they would have to forfeit.
The game would get off to a slow start as the defensive pressure from both teams would prevent a lot of offensive execution. At the 14:30 mark, five straight points by the Pioneer's Brandon Brackett gave the home team a 9-7 lead. A Virgil Walker Jr. three pointer followed up by a Deon Gray lay-up put the Pioneers up 23-15 with ten minutes left in the half. The Pioneers would be forced to rely on their bench for the remainder of the half as Walker Jr., Peyton Miller, and Martel Handley would have to sit due to foul trouble. With three minutes remaining, a Justin Person three pointer gave the home team a 39-33 lead. The Bears would finish the half on an 11-5 run and the teams would head to the locker room tied 44-44.
The Delta men came out of halftime and went on a 17-8 run. Two Virgil Walker Jr. free throws gave the home team a 61-52 lead with 13:30 remaining. Mott would battle back and get within three points, 69-66, of the Pioneers but a three pointer by Justin Person and a Virgil Walker Jr. put-back would expand Delta's lead back to eight with 5:40 to play. Down the stretch, the Bears would have no answer for Cedric Moten and he scored back to back baskets to secure the 86-79 victory for the Delta men.
"We are a different team with Virgil in the lineup," said Head Coach Carlos McMath. "Now that Justin Person is back and fully healthy it gives us another scoring threat and alleviates some of the pressure on our other guys. Our team realizes that everybody is going to get an opportunity and the more weapons we have, the more dangerous we can be."
The Pioneers had four players in double figures. Leading the way was Cedric Moten with 19 points. Justin Person had 16 points and 6 assists. Virgil Walker Jr. added 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Martel Handley had 10 points and Torandis Mack added 7 assists and 4 steals. The bench points proved to be the difference for the Pioneers as they had 21 more points (33-12) than Mott. Moten and Brandon Brackett (8 points) were the key contributors off the Pioneer bench.
"I was really pleased with how hard we came out and played tonight," said McMath. "From top to bottom everyone contributed to this victory. We got hurt with foul trouble in the first half and guys stepped up and kept us in the game. The challenge now is to keep the momentum going and to keep thriving towards perfection on the defensive and offensive end of the court."
The Pioneers (15-5, 7-5) will travel to Schoolcraft Community College (16-6, 7-3) on Saturday afternoon. The Ocelots are currently sitting in 3rd place, one spot ahead of the Pioneers, in the MCCAA Eastern Conference standings. The last time the Ocelots and Pioneers matched up the Ocelots won a tight contest 84-81. Game time is set for 3:00 pm at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI.