KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Pittsburg State Gorillas advanced to the MIAA Tournament Finals for the third time in school history – the first trip since the 2006-07 season – with a 56-53 victory over NW Missouri State Saturday (Mar. 3) at Municipal Auditorium.
"We have been underdogs this whole year," senior forward Andra Bailey said. "We want to show everyone that we deserve to be here."
Junior guard/forward Marky Nolen led a balanced Gorilla scoring attack, recording a double–double with 18 points and a career high 13 rebounds.
Bailey finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Rico Pierrevilus picked up where he left off in Friday's first-round action, adding nine points and nine rebounds. JaVon McGee also added nine points while playing through foul trouble for most of the second half.
Fueled by a 15-4 run in the first nine minutes of the game Northwest Missouri grabbed early control of the game. Pitt State answered when a three-pointer from Eric Ray capped a 17-7 for the Gorillas that tied the game at 16-16 with 5:44 left in the first half.
The two sides traded buckets the rest of the way and at the half NWMSU led 26-24.
Pierrevilus' hook shot tied the ballgame at 41 with 8:15 left in the game. Soon after, the Gorillas managed to take their first lead of the game, 45-43, on a jumper by Nolen with 6:01 remaining. With 3:46 on the clock Bailey forced a layup to fall in traffic and converted the free throw to give PSU a 52-47 lead.
Two free throws by Deangelo Hailey cut the Pitt State lead to 53-51 with under two minutes to play. On the next Northwest possession Hailey hit a deep jumper to tie the game at 53 with 1:08 showing on the scoreboard. Pittsburg State brought the ball up the court quickly and Sam Pugh missed a three from the corner, but Nolen was in perfect position to collect the rebound and lay the ball in with 40 seconds to go.
Kyle Haake got a good look for a three, but just missed as Nolen came up with another rebound and NWMSU was forced to foul. After making one of the two free throw attempts another Bearcat shot rimmed out giving PSU the ball with five seconds left and a 56-53 lead.
Pugh's first attempt at an in bounce pass was nearly stolen and went out of bounds. However, after a lengthy review possession was given back to the Gorillas with 3.7 seconds remaining. The next attempt went out on PSU giving Northwest the ball at mid court with two seconds left, but DeShaun Cooper's prayer went off the back board and front of the rim giving Pitt State a 56-53 victory.
Jake Reinders and Cooper led the Bearcats, each finishing with 14 points. Reinders added a team-high 11 rebounds. Haake and Hailey also turned in double-digit scoring efforts with 10 points.
For the game PSU shot .370 (20-54) from the field, including .250 (3-12) from long range and .765 (13-17) from the charity stripe. The Gorillas out-rebounded the Bearcats, 43-31, including 13-8 in offensive boards.
Pittsburg State's defense was the story of the game. The Gorillas held the Bearcats to just .340 (18-53) from the field and .211 (4-19) from behind the arc.
"This is another step in the right direction in where we are trying to get to," Coach Muff said. "Now we are just one game away from making the tournament, where we really want to be."
That one game will be against the top-seeded Washburn Ichabods in the MIAA Tournament Championship Sunday (Mar. 4) at 4 p.m. (CST).