PIKEVILLE, Ky. — UPIKE’s run at the MSC Tournament came to a tragic close on Sunday as the Bears fell to Life in triple-overtime, 96-94.
Cam Horton hit a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left to finally get a game-winner. For most of the third overtime, it appeared like UPIKE was going to finally break through. Pikeville led by six after a pair of free throws from Chase Parsley with 2:26 to go.
However, the Running Eagles responded with two quick layups in the paint to cut the lead to two. UPIKE had chances to take or extend its lead in each overtime, but caught its free throw bug again. The Bears shot 59 percent in the second half and all overtimes from the free throw stripe.
The game almost never reached a third overtime, but Xaviar Gaona hit a miraculous three in the corner with multiple hands in his face to tie the game at 77 and force the second overtime. Gaona had 19 points with seven rebounds.
Life executed its game plan to force UPIKE to take outside shots to perfection in the first half. The Bears shot 25 percent from the floor in the first half and 14 percent from long-distance. But Pikeville came out of halftime with a vengeance.
After heading into halftime down by nine, UPIKE opened the second half on a 20-4 run and earned a seven-point lead. Jovontae Carleton went to work in the second half, scoring 14 of his 17 points after halftime. He also grabbed 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
The Bears also started to find Luke Layhew after halftime. The junior had another solid game with 23 points and 16 rebounds, many of which were putbacks on UPIKE misses.
UPIKE will learn its fate for the rest of the season on March 13, when the NAIA D-I men’s basketball selection show reveals the 32-team field for this year’s national tournament. The selection show is set to begin at 6 p.m.