OT loss sets back playoff hopes

Written By Derek Malush, Staff Writer

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The men’s basketball team looked to keep its playoff hopes alive last week with a River States Conference (RSC) contest game and a non-conference road game.

The Pioneers clashed with the Carlow University Celtics Tuesday night for their fifth straight RSC game as they tried to climb back into the playoff picture.

Point Park came out hot in the first half against the Celtics as they led at the break, 40-33, behind junior guard Gavin Rajahpillay’s 13 points.

“We are not scared of anybody,” Rajahpillay said. “We just need to find a way to put it all together.”

The second half, however, portrayed a tense atmosphere as the Pioneers saw their playoff hopes dwindling right before their eyes.

Point Park was down 68-66 with just a few seconds remaining in the game. Senior forward Jaylen Mann grabbed one of his team-high 19 rebounds off a missed shot by senior Art Christian, and was able to put up a shot underneath the hoop as time expired.

His buzzer-beater found the bottom of the net and tied the game at 68 to end regulation.

Mann accounted for 22 points on 55 percent shooting.

Trailing by one in the overtime period, the Celtics registered a put-back layup off a missed shot in the final seconds to gain the lead.

“We need to make more stops on defense and not let up so many second chance points,” Mann said.

The ensuing inbound pass was stolen by the Celtics, leaving them victorious in a key RSC matchup, 75-74.

“When it got down to the last few minutes, it was just a grinded out battle,” Head Coach Gabe Bubon said. “We didn’t play badly, we just didn’t get the key bucket late when we needed it.”

The Pioneers hit the road again for a non-conference game Thursday night at Villa Maria (N.Y.) College.

Point Park defeated Villa Maria in late January at home, 87-85.

Points came in bunches Thursday night, as both teams tallied over 100 points.

The Pioneers found themselves ahead on the scoreboard at halftime, 50-46.

“Art [Christian], our senior, sent a message to the guys encouraging us for the week to get us mentally ready for these big games,” Rajahpillay said.

However, throughout the contest, Point Park racked up 34 personal fouls that sent the Vikings to the charity stripe for 47 attempts. Point Park was 11-12 at the free throw line.

“You never want to make excuses, but we were outnumbered,” Rajahpillay said. “It just seemed like the refs were against us.”

Rajahpillay led the Pioneers with 21 points, including four 3-pointers.

But the 34 personal fouls committed by the Pioneers resulted in 33 points for the Vikings, who used the points to pull away on the scoreboard in the second half.

The Pioneers suffered their third-straight loss, as they were downed by Villa Maria, 109-104.

“Sometimes the road is not kind to you and it benefitted them [Villa Maria],” Bubon said. “We just couldn’t overcome it. I thought we were going to have everybody foul out at one point.”

Christian was the only player to foul out, as seven players finished with at least four personal fouls. Sophomore guard Asim Pleas dropped 15 points, and junior forward Fousseini Konate managed a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Point Park now requires a win versus RSC opponent Rio Grande on Friday to keep its playoff desires alive. The Pioneers could also need to win at West Virginia Tech the following afternoon to make the postseason.

“Now we got to go to practice knowing we got to win these next two games, so I think we will practice hard and come prepared to win,” Bubon said.

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