By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) Trey Rakes drained the go-ahead three-pointer with 17 seconds remaining to lift No. 3-seeded Pikeville (Ky.) to a 56-51 win over second-seeded Columbia (Mo.) in the second round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. The Bears advance to the quarterfinal round and will play No. 1-seeded LSU Alexandria (La.), an 81-61 winner over Westmont (Calif.), on Saturday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m., CST.
With the score tied at 49-49 apiece with 41 seconds to play, Rakes spotted up in the right corner in front of his bench and canned a three-pointer to push Pikeville in front for good. Rakes also added a pair of free throws after Jackson Dubinski had converted a pair of his own with 12 seconds remaining.
“Gutty performance by our guys,” said Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells. “We had opportunities to fold, but we switched our defense to our zone and it was effective. There were some guys we tagged that you cannot help on, so we matched up at the top of the zone to find their guards, and that’s why we gave up so many offensive rebounds.”
The Bears stretched their zone to limit the outside shooting of Columbia and take advantage of 6-foot-9 post player Michael Lewis guarding the rim. The move paid off as Lewis recorded four blocked shots, while the Cougars were held to 4 of 22 (.182) three-point shooting and 28.8 percent shooting (17 of 59) overall.
Pikeville held the lead through the majority of the game, taking an 11-10 advantage with two free throws at the 11:29 mark of the first half. The lead ballooned to as much as 11 in the latter stages of the opening stanza and landed on nine points at halftime.
Darrion Leslie pushed the gap back to 11 with 6:59 to play before Columbia began to chip away at the deficit. Hank Mathews answered on the next possession with a three-pointer and trailed by eight before Preston Whitfield scored six-straight points to complete an 8-0 run and tie the game.
Pikeville (28-7) committed 17 turnovers, but surrendered just nine points off of those giveaways while scoring 10 points off of 13 turnovers committed by Columbia. The Cougars pulled down 17 offensive rebounds to claim a 37-35 edge on the glass, but the Bears also enjoyed the advantage in second chance points, 13-10.
"We couldn't make our shots tonight and some of the credit for that has to go to Pikeville,” said Columbia head coach Bob Burchard. “Pikeville played good defense and were physical in a positive way. It really bothered our guys."
Clint Nwosuh led the way for Pikeville with 13 points, four assists and three rebounds, while Lewis finished with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Leslie also chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Nathan Biggs was the only Columbia player in double figures with 12 points to couple with seven rebounds. Jesse Brown posted eight points and seven rebounds, while Whitfield added seven points and four rebounds.
Columbia finished its season with a record of 27-6.
For the second-consecutive season, the Cougars of Columbia have been eliminated in the second-round…This loss puts their all-time record at the national championship at 13-21 in their 21st appearance… This was Columbia’s seventh-consecutive appearance to Kansas City … In their first-round contest, the Cougars’ fought their way back from a 15-point deficit early in the game … Before the start of the championship, the Cougars lost three-of-four games to close out the season … Over the past five seasons, Columbia owns a 150-22 record – the best in NAIA Division I … Nic Reynolds, who hit the double-digit mark the past six games, was held to just four points in the contest … The Cougars rank No. 4 in the NAIA in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.1 percent .. In their second-round match, they only were good for 18.2 percent from beyond the arc, only connecting on 4-of-22 … With the loss, no American Midwest Conference teams remain.
Pikeville is advancing to its first quarterfinal since 2015… In their 11th appearance, the Bears all-time record at the national championship improves to 13-9 … The last national championship quarterfinal victory for Pikeville came in 2011 against Robert Morris (Ill.) … The Bears, who rank No. 4 in the NAIA in total steals, earned five steals in this contest … Three Bears hit the double-digit mark in the contest, led by Clint Nwosuh with 13, Michael Lewis and Darrion Leslie each netted 12 points … Pikeville was nearly perfect from the charity stripe hitting 9-of-10 … The Bears out-shot the Cougars in both field goal percentage (39.2 percent) and from beyond the arc connecting on 7-of-19 (36.8 percent) … The largest lead for Pikeville came during the first half at the 3:38 minute mark when they extended the margin to 11 points.
Pikeville and Columbia have combined for 32 tournament appearances…..Columbia and Pikeville have never met in National Tournament play…. Pikeville joins Mid-South Conference member Life (Ga.) in the Quarterfinal round.