KANSAS CITY, Mo.— An all-around great effort was hurt by turnovers as the Gorillas came up short in the MIAA Conference Tournament Final as Pittsburg State fell to Washburn 67-63 on Sunday (March 4) in Municipal Auditorium.
Eric Ray led Pittsburg State with 15 points, connecting on 3-of-5 three-point field goals. Rico Pierrevilus continued his impressive MIAA Tournament showing adding 10 points and six rebounds. After a career game in the semifinal of the tournament Marky Nolen finished with 11 points. Andra Bailey and JaVon McGee turned in solid performances with eight points and seven and six rebounds, respectively.
The Gorillas led by as many as eight with 13:19 left in the first half following a three-pointer by Rico Pierrevilus. Then Pitt State was struck with an over eight minute scoring drought that allowed Washburn to battle back to take a 23-21 lead with 3:53 left in the first half on a layup by Christian Ulsaker. A three by Ray ended the drought for the Gorillas with 1:03 before halftime.
At the halfway mark PSU trailed Washburn 25-30.
The Ichabods expanded their lead to 10 points on a layup by Martin Mitchell with 15:08 left in the championship game. The Gorillas didn't fade quietly and chipped as a Sam Pugh three-point jumper from the right wing made the score 37-40 Washburn with 13:49 remaining. A steal by Jared Henry led to a Kyle Wiggins an Washburn was able to get their lead back to six and the Ichabod crowd back into the game with 11:05 to play.
PSU charged back again after a three-point play by Ray and Pierrevilus hit a three-point jumper the Gorillas held a one-point advantage with 4:33 remaining. Two free throws by the Ichabods gave them the lead back with 4:17 to go in the contest. Then, Will McNeil's left baseline drive resulted in a layup and a foul made the score 57-55 Washburn with 2:58 to go.
After the two sides traded buckets Ray picked up his fifth foul with 1:31 showing on the scoreboard sending Bobby Chipman to the charity stripe who hit both to give WU a four point lead.
The Gorillas failed to answer on the offensive end and another Chipman free throw made the Ichabod lead five, 62-57, with 40 seconds left. Ian Ponds was fouled bringing the ball up the floor and his two free throws made it a one-possession game, 59-62.
After a free throw by Washburn, Nolen answered with two of his own making the Gorilla deficit two with 17 seconds left. McNeill converted his two opportunities at the stripe to extend the lead back to four. On the next PSU possession Pierrevilus got a good look from the right corner, but couldn't connect, ending the Gorillas tournament run.
For the game Pittsburg State shot .410 (19-46) from the field, .580 (7-12) from behind the arc and .720 (18-25) from the foul line. Pitt State was able to out rebound WU 39-17, including 17-4 on the offensive glass. Washburn edged PSU in points in the paint, 32-24 including 18-2 in the first half. The game saw five ties and nine lead changes.
However, turnovers were the story for the Gorillas. "Turnovers were the telling state, to have that many turnovers hurts, especially 30 games into the season," Coach Muff said. The Ichabods forced 21 Gorilla turnovers in the championship game.
Washburn was led in scoring by McNeil who finished with 15 points. Also in double figures for WU were Kyle Wiggins (12), Zack Riggins (11), and Bobby Chipman (10).
Nolen, McGee and Ray were named to the MIAA-All Tournament Team.
With the loss the 2011-2012 PSU men's basketball campaign comes to an end. Playing in their final game at Pittsburg State were seniors: Ray, Bailey, Adrian Herrera and Drake Green.
"Were going to use this as fuel for next year," McGee said. "To think about all the effort you put in and you don't win it hurts. This loss is going to be fuel, my motivation. Winning the tournament won't be my only goal, my goal is to do it bigger next year not just as an individual, but also as a team."