Second-half surge for men’s basketball leads to victory

Photo by Sam Robinson/ Point Park Athletics
Assistant coach Wayne Copeland high fives his players on the sidelines during their game against WVU Tech on December 3.

Written By Derek Malush

It was all about fighting fate this weekend as the Pioneers men’s basketball team surged in the second half of their respective weekend games.

In Friday’s River States Conference (RSC) victory over Rio Grande (Oh.), the Pioneers trailed by just two points at the half as the team was led by junior guard Gavin Rajahpillay, who had a team-high seven points, as well as two assists and two steals in 20 minutes of play.  With both teams shooting 40 percent from the field, the first half was neck-and-neck in terms of intensity, but the Pioneers squandered a 24-14 lead to start the game to give up the lead at the half.

The Pioneers started to march ahead on the scoreboard in the second half, hitting five of their first seven 3-point attempts to quickly jump ahead by 10 points. Senior forward Jaylen Mann helped steer his team to victory, converting eight of ten field goals and scoring 15 of his game high 19 points in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Point Park went on to win, routing Rio Grande in the second half with an 82-57 victory and limiting the opponent to only 22 points on 27 percent shooting from the field.

The Pioneers had a rocky start on Saturday as they took on WVU Tech at home in their second conference matchup of the season. Just five minutes after tip-off, the Pioneers were trailing 18-2, shooting 1 for 8 from the field and going bucket-less from the arch at 0-5. Frustrated with the start, senior guard Sa’iid Allen picked up a technical foul early in the first half.

“The technical [foul] really woke me up though; it sparked a little fire underneath me and the bench,” Allen said.

In the second half, the charge was led by Rajahpillay, who recorded a double-double, scoring a team-high 19 points and dropping 10 assists in his 40 minutes of play.

However, it was senior guard Kenny Strong who managed to bury six three-pointers in the second half to help solidify the win for the Pioneers as they took home their fourth win in a row, defeating WVU Tech 91-80. Strong said that his unconscious stroke from behind the arc sometimes “comes second nature.”

“[We have] a great point guard and great players on the team that can give me open shots,” Strong said.

The Pioneers outscored WVU Tech in the second half 52-39 to help improve their 2-0 nonconference record. After hosting Washington Adventist Tuesday, the Pioneers travel to Shawnee State Saturday for non-conference play.