By KEVIN WANNEMACHER

Sports Writer

HAVILAND - After a sluggish first half, Wayne Trace cranked up the intensity in the second half and outscored visiting Ayersville 26-9 in the final two quarters to cruise to a 53-37 win over the Pilots Friday night in Green Meadows Conference basketball at the Palace.

The victory sets up a battle for the league crown next Friday night when Wayne Trace visits Hicksville. Having clinched at least a share of the conference title with last night’s 56-36 win at Fairview, the Aces will come into the battle with the Raiders a perfect 6-0 in GMC play.

Meanwhile, Wayne Trace is currently 5-1 in the conference and will look to win a share of the conference title with a victory over Hicksville.

Ayersville used some hot first half shooting to post a 28-27 halftime advantage as the Pilots were 6 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening two quarters.

“They came out and played very well,” noted Raider head coach Jim Linder of the Pilots’ efforts. “Ayersville shot the ball well tonight, especially in the first half.”

The Raiders turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter and turned the game’s momentum.

Baskets from Braydon Amoroso, Jacob Berner and Ryan Martin gave the Pilots an early 34-30 lead in the third quarter but the rest of the period belonged to the Raiders.

Wayne Trace got buckets from Reid Miller and Nathan Gerber to tie the game at 34-34 before Josiah Linder added a basket to put the Raiders on top for good at 36-34 with 2:18 left in the period.

Mox Price then recorded a pair of steals that resulted layups for the senior as the red-white-and-blue expanded the margin to 40-34 entering the final quarter.

“We came out and played much better in the second half,” commented Linder. “I thought we came out much more focused and we were able to turn up the intensity defensively.”

The Raiders rode the six-point lead into the fourth quarter and rolled from there.

Two Price free throws and one from Josiah Linder widened the lead to 43-34 before Ayersville broke a span of over seven minutes without scoring as the Pilots got a Brayden Amoroso basket to get within 43-36.

Wayne Trace answered with a 10-point run, highlighted by baskets from Price, Josiah Linder and Alex Reinhart, to widen the lead to 53-34 with just over two minutes left.

“I thought we did a good job on the defensive end of the floor,” added the Raider mentor. “Our pressure started to wear on them and it gave us a spark.”

Josiah Linder led the Raider efforts, recording a double-double with 16 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Nate Gerber chipped in a dozen points and seven rebounds while Mox Price finished with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and six steals.

“Josiah had a very good game tonight,” noted Raider coach and Josiah’s father, Jim Linder. “He came out and was very aggressive going to the boards and was strong going to the basket. I thought Mox Price also played very well and gave us some very quality minutes. It was good to see them both play very well.”

Trae Sinn added five points and Reid Miller bucketed four points, two assists and three steals. Alex Reinhart and Caleb Yenser both posted a basket as well for Wayne Trace, which is now 14-4 overall and 5-1 in the league.

Martin topped Ayersville with 10 points and four assists while Jacob Berner added seven points, five rebounds and four assists. The Pilots fall to 3-13 overall and 0-6 in the conference.

Wayne Trace committed only 10 turnovers in the contest while Ayersville finished with 23, 13 of which came in the second half.

The Raiders also won the battle of the boards, 31-29, with Nate Gerber adding seven boards. Price added three assists and six steals while Linder chipped in three assists. Reid Miller picked up two assists and three steals for Wayne Trace.

Wayne Trace’s junior varsity improved to 15-3 overall and 5-1 in the league with a 42-30 win over the Pilots.

Trevor Sinn topped the Raiders with a dozen markers while Nate Crosby had nine points and four rebounds. Grayson McClure chipped in eight points and three steals with Cameron Sinn recording seven markers, four rebounds and five steals. Cale Crosby added six points, five boards, three assists and two steals.

The red-white-and-blue will close out the Green Meadows Conference portion of its schedule on Friday as Wayne Trace visits Hicksville in a battle for the league title. A Wayne Trace win gives the Raiders a share of the conference crown while an Aces victory puts Hicksville atop the league outright.