By Eric Montgomery | NAIA Media Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box Score) No. 1-seeded LSU Alexandria (La.) kept its bid for a perfect season alive by outlasting No. 3-seeded Pikeville (Ky.) in overtime, 84-80, Saturday evening in the quarterfinal round of the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium. The Generals advance to the semifinal round and will play No. 3-seeded Life (Ga.), a 73-71 winner over Carroll (Mont.), on Monday, March 20 at 6:00 p.m., CST.
Brandon Moss led the way for LSU Alexandria with 20 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots, while Brian Sylvester stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots. Jordin Williams chipped in with 11 points, and Hayward Register tallied 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“I’m proud of our guys for keeping their composure and winning the game in overtime,” said LSU Alexandria head coach Larry Cordaro. “This time of the season, you take it however you can get it. We've not ever been here this late, but now we're in the (Fab) Four. We don't talk about the chance to play for a national title, but it's right there for us."
The play that decided another nail-biter in the quarterfinal round was made by a Generals player who registered in just one statistical category. With LSU Alexandria clinging to a three-point lead and 57 seconds remaining, Donovan Thomas swiped an errant pass from Trey Rakes with 16 seconds to play. He passed the ball to Jordin Williams, who was fouled and hit two free throws with nine seconds left for a five-point lead that was enough to seal the victory.
The Generals needed some late heroics in regulation to force the extra period after trailing by four with 2:32 to play. Gilbert Talbot scored inside with 2:15 left before Williams knocked down a pair of free throws at the 1:42 mark after a steal by Register. Both teams had opportunities in the final 100 seconds of the second half, but Brandon Moss blocked an attempt at the rim by Darrion Leslie to preserve the tie score.
The first half was as competitive as the rest of the game, including five ties and three lead changes. The teams were still even with 32 seconds to play until Rakes hit a three-pointer as time expired to give the Bears a three-point lead. Pikeville hit 5 of 11 three-point shots in the opening 20 minutes and shot 46.4 percent (13 of 28) overall, while LSU Alexandria was 13 of 32 (.406) from the field in the first half.
“The growth of this team has been remarkable. They just continue to do all the things that we asked them to do,” said Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells. “In our program, we don’t define who we are by winning or losing. We’re a bunch of winners who came up a little bit short on the clock tonight, but I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch.”
Rakes matched a season-high with 21 points for Pikeville, finishing 8 of 13 from the field. Rze Culbreath tallied 17 points and six rebounds, Leslie added 16 points and six rebounds, and Jordan Perry recorded 12 points.
Pikeville concluded its season with a record of 28-8.
LSU Alexandria – The Generals are in their third season of competition and appearing in its third-straight national championship, improving to 4-2 all-time with the win … With a 34-0 record, LSU Alexandria became the winningest team for a single season in the state of Louisiana for college basketball at all levels (according to Louisiana College Basketball Association) … The Generals are the first undefeated team since Columbia (Mo.) in 2013 to advance to the quarterfinals and first unbeaten side since Robert Morris (Ill.) in 2007 to make the Fab Four … The Generals are one of four Red River Athletic Conference teams in the tournament, along with LSU Shreveport, Langston (Okla.) and Wiley (Tex.)...Red River Athletic Conference teams are 5-3 in the 2017 national tournament...LSU Alexandria is 15-0 against teams that qualified for the 2017 national tournament...This game was the Generals' first overtime contest of the season and in its national tournament history...LSU Alexandria is now 3-0 in games decided by four points or less.
Pikeville – The Bears fell to 13-10 all-time in the national championship … Pikeville lost for the first time this season (21-1) when leading at halftime … The Bears entered the national championship ranked No. 3 in the NAIA in turnover margin (+4.3), but broke even against the Generals (13-13) … Pikeville was one of three Mid-South Conference teams (Life, Georgetown) in this season’s field … At least one Mid-South Conference team has played in the quarterfinals in each of the last six national championships.
General Notes: The Generals were ranked No. 1 in the final NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll ... Pikeville was ranked 10th in the final rankings….. The Generals’ Gilbert Talbot is one of two players still active in the tournament that was named as National Player of the Week, earning the honor Feb. 7 and William Penn’s Torren Jones earned it Feb. 21 … The last overtime game in the quarterfinals was in 2015 when No. 6 Dalton State defeated No. 3 Cal State San Marcos, 80-76 … Pikeville has played in two tourney overtime games – a win over Concordia (Calif.) in the 2015 second round, and a loss to Mountain State (W.Va.) in the 2011 finals … The Bears played one regular season overtime game, falling to Cumberland (Tenn.) … It is the first time since 2013 that a member of the Red River Athletic Conference has reached the semifinals when LSU Shreveport (La.) lost to eventual champion Georgetown (Ky.), 90-88.