Vanguard (Calif.) senior Preston Wynne needs to look no further than the tongues of his sneakers for a little added inspiration when he’s on the court.
Each shoe is adorned with the name of one of his children, Jameer or Isis, and they serve as a constant reminder of who he is playing for.
However, even on a night when he scored 42 points and led Vanguard to a 108-88 victory over St. Gregory’s (Okla.), advancing his team to the program’s first NAIA Division I championship game, his kids weren’t easily impressed.
“My son would just sit there and smile, he’d say, ‘That’s just dad,’ ” Wynne said. “My daughter is probably just playing, she probably doesn’t even watch the games.”
Although Wynne scored 34 points during a game at Spokane Community College, his 42 points Monday night were a career high at Vanguard. It was also the highest point total so far in this year’s NAIA tourney.
“The hoop for some reason just looked like a big old ocean,” Wynne said. “It was like throwing a rock into the ocean, and I was just having fun.”
Wynne hit 14 of 19 shots, including six of nine beyond the three-point arc.
“He’s phenomenal,” St. Gregory’s coach John Martin said. “We knew he could erupt for some points, but we were hoping it wasn’t going to be tonight against us. Forty-two points off 19 (shots) is pretty impressive.”
Vanguard held a 10-point lead at halftime, and Wynne had 27 points while shooting nine for 13 from the field and making four of his seven three-point shots. St. Gregory’s cut the deficit to single digits midway through the second half, but Wynne answered with a three-pointer and a three-point play, giving momentum back to Vanguard.
While Wynne may have taken the spotlight, Chris Gorman and DeAngelo Jones also finished in double figures. The group combined for 12 of the team’s 14 three-pointers and 81 of the team’s 108 points.
“We’ve always said that when our big three play well, we are really hard to beat,” Vanguard coach Rhett Soliday said. “They all three played really well.”
Vanguard was also able to limit St. Gregory’s guard Marty Wilkerson, who had scored 32 points a few nights before, to two points at halftime. He finished with 20 points, which mostly came in the final 11 minutes. Jaron Vierra, TJ Thornton, Trey Jones and Brock Vorwald joined him in double figures.
This was the first tournament appearance for St. Gregory’s since 2000, and the team finished with a 24-10 record after winning just seven games in each of the previous three seasons.