Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Men’s basketball wins first ever RSC title

In highly anticipated championship match against rival St. Mary of the Woods, Point Park men come out on top by one point 76-75 last week.
Photo by Joey Bova
Jalen Stamps cutting down the net after the conference championship victory.

Tuesday, March 5 will be a date remembered forever for the Point Park men’s basketball team. All the early morning practices, summer workouts and sacrifices throughout the year led to a championship game witnessed by a packed crowd full of Pioneers fans. Point Park celebrated its first conference postseason title in 17 years and the first one since joining the RSC in 2011-12. 

Tuesday night featured a heavyweight matchup between the number-one-seeded Point Park Pioneers and number-two-seeded St. Mary-Woods Pomeroys. There was no doubt during the year that these were the best two teams in the conference, as the Pomeroys went 17-1 in conference play and the Pioneers went 15-2 in conference play. 

As the Pioneers prepared for the hefty matchup, the pressure and anticipation were at an all-time high for the boys. Star Forward Jo Valrie said, “Going into the championship game, of course there were different emotions going on, some excited, nervous, anxious, happy, and etc.” 

As the Pioneers have been playing dominant basketball throughout the season, nothing changed heading into the game for Valrie. He said, “It was a big game and we knew what was on the line and we just stuck to our principles for the game.”

As the tipoff began, you could feel the energy from the crowd. The players were feeding on this energy. Within the first five minutes of the game, it was a back-and-forth affair, with the Pioneers being up 11-10. Nathaniel Van contributed five of the 11 points in the first five minutes, as he shot 75% from three-point range and finished the game with a solid 12 points. From this point on it was all Pomeroys, as they got into a rhythm and took control of the game. The Pioneers were struggling to answer and consistently make shots. 

The Pomeroys were hot from the field and at the 8:53 mark of the game, they found themselves up 29-17, which was their biggest lead in this contest. The Pomeroys’ Cobie Barns, who was second in points per game in the River States Conference with 22.9, was a big reason why St. Mary-Woods found themselves with such a huge lead. 

The Pioneers had to get going on offense before the deficit was too large to come back from. Although the Pioneers turned it up a notch, the Pomeroys would answer with big shot after big shot. With just under three minutes to go, the Pioneers were still down double digits with a score of 40-29. The Pioneers needed to have some momentum going into halftime, and an 8-3 scoring run sure helped. The run included two huge three-point shots from Nathaniel Van and Jamisen Smith. Despite the slow start from the Pioneers and shooting 42.9% from the field, the score was 43-37 Pomeroys at the end of the first half.

Although the Pioneers ended the first half strong, the Pomeroys came out relentless, scoring the first two buckets. The Pioneers again found themselves down double digits. At the 15:00 mark, the Pioneers decided to control and take over the game. Coach Reynolds took a timeout at the 14:50 mark with the Pioneers down 46-54, which the boys clearly responded to. 

One of the best players in postseason play for the Pioneers, Jalen Stamps, turned up scoring 10 points in the second half as he finished with 14 points. Within two minutes the tide of the game turned. Off-the-bench, Nazareth Fisher had a huge block, which led to a Stamps layup that got the Pioneers within 3 points with a score of 53-56. The crowd went bananas, as the Pomeroys had no choice but to take a timeout and try to get it together.


The men’s team in their pregame huddle vs St Mary-Woods college in the championship duel

Despite the timeout from the Pomeroys, the Pioneers continued their impressive run. Point Park increased its lead to 76-68 with a clutch Jo Valrie jump shot. Valrie was a huge difference-maker in this game, leading both teams in points with 21 and playing all 40 minutes. 

Victory wasn’t going to be that easy, as the Pomeroys had a run of their own and pulled within one point thanks to a Greg Jenkins layup with 38 seconds to go. The Pioneers would get the ball back up by one, but Stamps would turn the ball over to the Pomeroys. With eight seconds left, the Pioneers were up 76-75. They needed a defensive stop to secure their first postseason title in 17 years. 

Pomeroys inbounded the ball and Jenkins put up a highly contested shot, but it rolled out of the basket. It was over. The Pioneers did it and became River States Conference Champions. The crowd went berserk being a difference maker throughout the game. It was packed in CACC full of Pioneer fans and Jamisen Smith said “I think the competitive edge was the crowd our fans came out with and they really showed their support. They were loud all game. They kept us in it the whole time”. In the last defensive stop the crowd came up huge being the Pioneers 6th man.

The players would cut down the net and raise their shiny new trophy high in the air proudly. As they achieved a huge accomplishment as a complete team and all their hard work paid off.

Going back to the final stop, Valrie said, “I felt like we were focused to get the stop and very on edge but once the buzzer sounded and it was over the feeling was amazing like a huge adrenaline rush and a sense of peace.” Although the season is far from over, Valrie reflected on his outstanding season up-to-date. He said that he “improved more with my vocal skills and being able to make more plays that contribute to wins in close games.” 

The good vibes were all around as many players looked back on their terrific conference play throughout the season and dedication to winning.

A huge part of the win came from the Pioneer bench as Nazareth Fisher had a double double with 13 rebounds and 10 points. As after the game he was going through the emotions of being on the mountain top of the River States Conference saying “This is like a dream to me. This is my first one obviously and I never thought I would be here honestly. I know Kr (head coach Kevin Reynolds) reached out to me when school started. Its crazy I never thought it would be like this”

With the Pioneers winning the River States Conference, they secured a spot in the NAIA National Championship tournament, where they grabbed the 8-seed. Tournament play will begin March 15 in Henderson, Tennessee against the 9th-seeded Texas College.

The Pioneers look to make a run at the national title and continue their historic season. As Valrie said, “As usual we stick to the same plan and principles because that’s what got us this far, why stop now.”

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