Men’s basketball eliminated in River States Conference semifinals to end 2022-2023 season

Finish Head Coach Kevin Reynolds’ first season with 23-7 record, three players named to all-RSC teams

Written By Mason Strawn, Co-Sports Editor

The men’s basketball team’s (23-7, 13-4 RSC) season came to an end on February 25, when the Pioneers fell to the Indiana University-Kokomo Cougars on the road, 76-66, in the River States Conference semifinals. The Pioneers finished top four in the RSC, but unfortunately were not selected for the at-large bid for the NAIA tournament. The team had several players selected for the all-RSC conference teams, including sophomore forward Jo Valrie, who was selected as the Player of the Year for the conference. 

The Pioneers started their playoff run with a home quarterfinals match up against the Midway University Eagles (16-12, 11-7 RSC) on February 22. The Eagles were the three seed from the West as the Pioneers clutched the second seed in the East. 

The Pioneers started the game with explosive offense and took the opening bucket to hold the lead for most of the first 20 minutes of play. Point Park jumped out to its biggest advantage with 33 seconds remaining in the first half — a 10 point lead — before the end of the first half when the Pioneers boasted a 45-37 lead. 

The second half saw the visiting Eagles mount the comeback in Pittsburgh after they took an 11-point deficit with 16 minutes remaining and turned it into a two point lead ten minutes later at the six-minute mark in the second half. The Pioneers kept their heads in the game to quickly tie up the game then take back their lead.  The two sides continued trading baskets until the final minute of the game as Midway led by one. Sophomore center Jags Jhawar put up an and-one layup to take the lead, before Jhawar hit the insurance free throw with 52 seconds remaining. Neither team was able to find a bucket until the final buzzer and a game winning block from senior guard Cyrie Coates with three seconds remaining allowed the Pioneers to sneak away with a 78-76 win. 

Valrie led all scorers with 27 points and nine rebounds and shot 50 percent from three. Junior guard Jalen Stamps put up 20 points of his own alongside a game high 5 assists. Point Park nailed 28-of-65 (43 percent) of their shots and hit on 9-of-22 (41 percent) from beyond the arc. Midway outshot the Pioneers from the floor as a whole as they knocked down 35-of-70 (50 percent) of their shots, but hit on a measly 2-of-10 (20 percent) of their attempts from downtown. Both teams collected 39 rebounds in the contest, but Point Park ripped down two more offensive boards to Midway’s two more defensive boards. 

The semifinals featured a road trip to Kokomo, Indiana for the Pioneers, as the Cougars hosted Point Park for a chance at the RSC championship. Point Park was without Valrie, who was not able to travel with the team due to a knee injury from the quarterfinal matchup against Midway. The Pioneers found the opening bucket once again, but the Cougars took back and held the lead after the initial five minutes and jumped out to a 12 point lead by the 10 minute mark. Point Park found their fire later in the half as they bounced back and brought the game within two with 26 seconds remaining, before ending the first half down 37-33.

The Pioneers came out of the gates with tenacity and intensity in the second half to go on a 13-4 run to start to take their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the first half. PPU held the lead until the 10 minute mark. 

IU-Kokomo ripped away the lead from the hands of the green and gold and held onto the advantage for the remainder of the game. The home team jumped out to a 12 point lead with two minutes remaining and the Pioneers were not able to find an offensive groove in the final minutes, and fell in the semifinals match to end their season, 76-66. 

Stamps put everything into the final game of the season for the Pioneers as he netted a game high 32 points and swiped four steals. Coates followed up with 14 points of his own in the loss, while Jhawar led the game in rebounds with 11, with four being offensive boards. Point Park hit on only 22-of-58 (38 percent) of their shots and made a very low5-of-24 (21 percent) of their threes. 

The Cougars, in comparison, nailed 25-of-51 (49 percent) of their shots and knocked  down 6-of-15 (40 percent) of their treys. The Pioneers once again led in rebounds, ripping down 35 to IU-Kokomo’s 33, including doubling the Cougars offensive boards with 12. 

Even with the end of the Pioneers season, several players were honored this season with awards, including Valrie who received newcomer of the year, and POY in the RSC. Valrie and Stamps were both placed on the All-RSC First Team, while Coates was selected for the Second Team. Senior guard Sherron Schifino was an honorable mention. 

The Pioneers ended their season at 23-7, and although were not able to make the tournament this season, they had one of their most successful seasons since the 2006-07 season. That year, the team was selected for the tournament and it was the last time the team reached the 20 win plateau. Congratulations to the men’s basketball team on another successful season.