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Men finish 8-20, miss RSC playoffs

Written By Derek Malush, Staff Writer

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With the pursuit of a playoff run resting on the horizon, the men’s basketball team fought for the last spot in the River State Conference (RSC) playoffs Friday night as the team traveled to the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) for a crucial RSC matchup.

Things got out of hand quickly for the Pioneers, as they saw themselves trailing 26-8 early in the first half.

“We go through scoring droughts sometimes, but no matter what we keep playing” head coach Gabe Bubon said.

However, Point Park began building momentum as the first half came to a close and pulled within seven points of the RedStorm at 44-37.

“It was a very close game,” Bubon said. “I really think that we had a chance to really dig in.”

The Pioneers thrived off of the late energy in the first half and arrived in the second half still in attack mode. Point Park put together a 7-0 run to begin the second half that knotted the game at 44.

But that was as close as the Pioneers would come to tasting any lead.

The Pioneers’ 7-0 run to begin the second half was quickly sustained by an immediate RedStorm 7-0 run that set the Pioneers back to where they began.

“They were a bit bigger than us,” Bubon said. “The big guys kind of killed us down low.”

The Pioneers were out-rebounded by Rio Grande 42-27 and allowed the RedStorm to shoot over 50 percent from both the field and from beyond the arc.

Point Park eventually fell to Rio Grande, 84-71, marking their 19th loss of the season and officially knocking them out of playoff contention.

Point Park was led by junior guard Gavin Rajahpillay who dropped 29 points and four assists in all 40 minutes of floor time. Sophomore guard Asim Pleas added 10 points and three steals.

“I’m on a mission to recruit the right people and turn this around for next season,” Bubon said.

The Pioneers then hit the road again for their season finale against No. 11 West Virginia Tech in the season’s last RSC game for both teams.

With a little over a minute to go in the first half of play, the Pioneers were staring down a barrel all too familiar, as they were down by 23 points, 58-35.

However, like much of this season, the Pioneers came out of halftime with a sense of urgency as they capped off a 15-0 run that stretched back to late in the first half.

“I hate guys that lay down,” Bubon said. “We’re going to finish the right way and play until the very end.”

With less than four minutes left in regulation, the Pioneers were clawing their way back into the game, trailing by only five points at 92-87.

“This was our last game, not just of the season but ever for the seniors,” senior guard Art Christian said. “So we just wanted to get up as many shots as possible down the stretch.”

Despite the late game surge, Point Park was unable to complete the upset as they dropped their last game of the season, 103-92.

The three seniors in forwards Jaylen Mann, Lassana Konate and Christian all played essential roles in their final collegiate game.

Mann tallied a team-high 22 points on 47 percent shooting from the field. 18 of those points were from behind the arc.

“It’s bittersweet,” Mann said. “It’s bitter because I’ll never suit up again, but sweet because I felt like everybody played hard and left it out on the floor.”

Konate ended the night and his college career with nine points, eight boards and two blocks.

Christian put up 11 points on 40 percent shooting and hit two 3-pointers to add to his total.

“I just plan to enjoy life, travel and live good,” Christian said.

Bubon is looking forward to getting back on the floor next season with his returning players.

“To the guys who are coming back, I promise this will get better and I am on a mission to do so,” Bubon said.

Point Park finished the 2016-17 season with a record of 8-20, and 5-12 in RSC play. The Pioneers were 7-5 at home, and 1-15 away from CCAC South.

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