By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) St. Gregory’s (Okla.) delivered the biggest upset thus far in the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, knocking off No. 2-seeded Pikeville (Ky.) on Friday afternoon in Municipal Auditorium. The Cavaliers will face the winner of Talladega (Ala.) and Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) in the quarterfinal round on Saturday at 2:00p.m. CDT.
The Cavaliers (23-9) won a back-and-forth game that saw each team hold an eight-point advantage in the second half after playing through four ties and five lead changes in the first half. St. Gregory’s led by as much as 10 points late in the first half before settling for a three-point lead at halftime.
A bucket by Tilford Thornton was followed by a pair of free throws from Trey Jones to double a four-point advantage and put the Cavaliers on top, 52-44, at the 15:14 mark of the first half. The Bears flipped the game around over the next eight minutes, claiming a 68-60 edge following two free throws by Keala King in a 6-0 spurt. Pikeville led by six with 4:29 before the momentum swung to St. Gregory’s for the final time.
Thornton hit a three-pointer after two free throws by Marty Wilkerson to start a 13-2 run for the Cavaliers, finished off by Wilkerson at the free throw line with 1:31 to play for a five-point lead. Pikeville got within three with 15 seconds left, but Wilkerson finished off the game with his third pair at the charity stripe down the stretch.
St. Gregory’s shot 60.0 percent (15 of 25) from the field in the second half and was 29 of 58 (.500) for the game. The Cavaliers converted 10 of 18 three-point shots (.556) to offset a 43-35 rebounding advantage for the Bears that included 21 on the offensive end. Pikeville finished the game five for 21 from three-point range (.238) and shot 36.8 percent overall.
“We believed we were supposed to be here and advance,” said St. Gregory’s head coach John Martin. “We have spent the whole season trying to prove that St. Gregory’s is no fluke. Our plan was to try and take (Pikeville) out of its flow, and I thought we did an excellent job of that.”
Wilkerson made eight of his nine attempts at the free throw line and led the Cavaliers with 23 points while dishing out four assists. Trey Jones tallied 19 points and seven rebounds, Thornton finished with 13 points, and Josiah Campbell registered 10 rebounds.
“It’s hard to look at our guys and seniors in the eye after all that they’ve given,” said Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells. “I tried to reflect to them in the locker room all the things they’ve accomplished and the legacy they will leave at UPIKE.”
Bruce Reed led all scorers with 26 points to go along with six rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals for the Bears. King recorded 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while Kenny Manigault provided 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.
Pikeville finishes its season with a record of 31-3.
St. Gregory’s– The Cavaliers improves to 2-1 in just its second all-time appearance in the tournament … SGU came into the tournament with a record of 6-3 this season against teams in this season’s field of 32 … The Cavaliers hit 10 or more three-pointers for the eighth time this season … Marty Wilkerson eclipsed the 20-point mark for the 22nd time in 32 games this season.
Pikeville – The Bears fell to 9-7 all-time in the tournament and 1-2 in their last two appearances since winning the 2011 championship … Pikeville had a 17-game winning streak snapped with the loss, the Bears’ last setback coming on Jan. 16 at Georgetown (Ky.) … The loss was the earliest by a No. 2 seed since Concordia (Calif.) lost in the second round of the 2010 tournament … The Bears suffered just their third loss in 10 games when trailing at halftime.