LEBANON, Tenn. – For the first time since the 2000-01 season, the University of Pikeville has captured the Mid-South Conference Regular-Season and Tournament Championships after routing Georgetown (Ky.) 96-71 in Sunday’s final at Dallas Floyd Gymnasium.
It’s been a season of accolades as the championship also matches a program record for the most wins with 30. It also gives the Bears momentum heading into the NAIA National Championship that it hasn’t felt in 11 years, winning their last conference tournament title in 2003.
A team effort got it done on Sunday as Josh Whitaker led all scorers with 21 points, followed by Bruce Reed with 19 and Keala King with 16. Chris Cantino posted a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds, while Kenny Manigault also chipped in 13 points.
UPIKE outrebounded Georgetown 44-27 and outshot it from the field 53.6 to 43.6 percent. Noah Cottrill paced the Tigers with 17 points, followed by 16 from Monty Wilson.
The Bears literally couldn’t miss in the first three minutes of the game, hitting their first five shots. But Cottrill wasn’t back down from the run, hitting a pull-up jumper and deep three to make it a 10-8 game.
Reed scored the next four UPIKE points, helping it build a six point lead which it kept until the 10-minute mark of the half. McWhorter cut it to two with back-to-back layups and the game was back to a battle with 9:30 left until halftime.
The Tiger run continued a minute later with a three from Jaylen Daniel that gave them their first lead of the game at 21-20. The five straight points were countered by Cantino going to work on the offensive glass to quickly put Pikeville back on top.
Cantino was a force all half, finishing with nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes which was crucial to the Bears being able to push ahead by seven on a last-second three from Justice before the break.
It could have ended much differently with the Tigers going back up by one with 1:30 on the clock, but Justice hit back-to-back threes and Nunnally finished a layup to give Pikeville its best cushion.
Trading baskets was the theme of the second half for the first eight minutes as the Tigers couldn’t get any closer than seven. UPIKE took its largest lead yet off a steal from Justice than ended with a slam from Reed to go up 12 with less than 11 minutes to play.
It didn’t get any better for Georgetown over the next four minutes as by the time Whitaker had added a three and a layup through the middle of the Tiger defense it was a 72-55 Bear lead.
Leading 79-63 with less than four minutes to go, the Bears didn’t let off the gas as King scored five straight points, followed by two free throws from Whitaker and a fast-break slam from King to go up by 25.
Two possessions later Manigault added another 3-point play off a turnover and the rout was on.
UPIKE will learn its opponent for the first round of the NAIA National Championship at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.