Bench contributions guide UPIKE to win in MSC Quarterfinals

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- After possibly the best 20 minutes of basketball UPIKE men’s basketball has played this season, the Bears were able to withstand a comeback effort and finally beat Shawnee State, 79-74.

(Photo: UPIKE Athletics)

UPIKE received 41 points off the bench in the game, led by Xaviar Gaona’s game-high 22. Gaona was a sharpshooter from the floor all day, making nine of his 15 shots, including all four from beyond-the-arc.

After losing to Shawnee twice already this season, UPIKE came out with a chip on its shoulder and forced its presence early. Shawnee opened with a 10-8 lead, but then Pikeville responded with a 17-2 run to take a 13-point lead. UPIKE started that run with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Gaona, Stanley Perrin, and Jovontae Carleton.

Perrin was another huge difference maker on Saturday with 12 points and a season-high eight rebounds in just 11 minutes. The senior from Brooklyn hit five of his six shot attempts, including both three-pointers.

UPIKE continued to build on that first-half run and led by as much as 22 points, before taking a 20-point lead into halftime.

Shawnee tried its hardest to recover after halftime, scoring 53 points after halftime. Shawnee shot 54 percent in the second half, including 50 percent from 3-point range.

With about 10 minutes to go, SSU went on a 19-6 run and got the UPIKE lead to just two points. Juwan Grant filled his role of the Shawnee spark plug to a T and had 17 of his 20 points after halftime for the Bears. His 3-pointer with just over two minutes left put Shawnee State behind by just one point.

UPIKE wasn’t deterred and found enough offense to put the game away. The Bears were able to shake off the free throw bug that had plagued them in the last week, making 11 out of 15 attempts, 10 of 13 in the second half.

Pikeville will return to the Expo on Sunday night to face the winner of Life and Lindsey Wilson in the Mid-South semifinals. Tip-off for that game is set for 7 p.m. at the East Kentucky Expo Center.

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