PORTSMOUTH – No. 2 Pikeville proved its national prowess once again by downing Shawnee State 69-56 on Thursday night. The win gave Pikeville (24-2, 14-1 MSC) an outright Mid-South Conference Championship. Shawnee State (8-18, 2-13 MSC) outscored Pikeville during the second half but the middle part of the opening half proved too much of a margin to overcome.
Keala King led Pikeville in scoring on the evening with 19 points. Reigning MSC Player of the Week Bruce Reed scored 18 points, while Elisha Justice also added 10 points to give Pikeville three players in double figures. Andrew Bendolph led Shawnee State with 13 points on the night, while Mark Bryant also scored 12 points to pace the SSU offense.
Shawnee State came out of the gates fired up and got a pair of treys from their two leading scorers on the night to jump out to a quick 6-2 lead. The Bears would held their last lead of the night at 9-8 with 14:50 on the clock before Pikeville begin to showcase its defensive prowess as over the next 8:35 of playing time, Pikeville went on an extended 17-3 run to go up 25-12 with 6:15 on the clock.
SSU answered back with a 6-0 run that featured four points from Bendolph, cutting the deficit to 25-18. However, Pikeville turned the tables back in their favor before the half as it scored 12 points in just over two minutes of playing time to take a lead of 19 before a 3-pointer from Sean Elliott with just over a minute remaining in the opening half made the score 37-21 at the halftime break.
Just like the opening half, Shawnee State started the second half with a renewed sense of urgency and scored the first nine points of the second half. Mark Bryant scored five of those points, while Bendolph's two free throws closed the gap to just seven points, 37-30, with 17 minutes to play in the game.
In a cruel twist of fate, the second half continued to mirror the first half as once Shawnee State came out strong, but Pikeville weathered the storm and took advantage again. This time, the guests answered the Bears' 9-0 run with eight straight points of their own to go back up by 15.
Another 3-pointer from Elliott that was followed up with a basket from Nick Gouch got the deficit down to nine points, 48-39, with 8:15 to play. However, Pikeville would hit a free throw to go back up by double digits on its next possession and never led by less than 10 for the remainder of the evening.
Pikeville finished the night just a hair under 45-percent from the field, while SSU shot just over 35-percent. The Bears did hit six 3-pointers in the contest, including a pair from both Elliott and Bryant. Pikeville also scored 10 more points at the free throw line in 11 more chances as it went 22-of-30 for the night, compared to a 12-of-19 performance at the charity stripe for the Bears.
In addition to the two leading scorers, Andrew Devlin and Dante Dunston both scored eight points in their starting roles. Elliott finished with seven points for the contest. Devlin also tied the game-high by grabbing nine boards on the night.
Up next for men's basketball will be the home finale this Saturday against Bluefield at 4 p.m. That game will also be Senior Day for the graduating members of the team (Trevor Banks, Mark Bryant, Andrew Devlin, and Kyle Duncan. That game also holds extra significance as the Bears must win out in their final three games and get some help in order to force a tiebreaker situation for the final spot in the Mid-South Conference playoffs.