KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Pikeville College went from unseeded to undisputed NAIA champion.
Trevor Setty tied a career high with 32 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the Kentucky-based school completed an improbable run through the NAIA Division I men’s basketball tournament with an 83-76 overtime victory Tuesday night over Mountain State.
The Bears won their first national title and became the first unseeded team in championship history to defeat five seeded teams in the tournament.
“We don’t consider our wins in this tournament to be upsets,” Setty said. “We wanted to come out and prove to everyone in the country that we are for real.”
Pikeville (30-7) finished tied for third place in the Mid-South Conference, but was relentless in the tournament against a string of favored teams — including third-seeded Mountain State (33-4).
“You’re darn right we were playing for respect,” Pikeville coach Kelly Wells said.
Setty, a slender 6-foot-9 forward, hit seven 3-pointers to keep Pikeville in the game when it seemed that Mountain State’s inside power might be too much.
As the Bears cut down the nets and the band played “My Old Kentucky Home,” Wells struggled to put his team’s accomplishment in perspective.
“I can’t believe the road we took to get here,” Wells said.
Pikeville beat top-seeded Robert Morris (Ill.), defending national champion Oklahoma Baptist and defending national runner-up Azusa Pacific (Calif.) to reach the semifinals. The Bears overcame a 15-point deficit against Martin Methodist (Tenn.) to reach the final and trailed most of the way against the Cougars from West Virginia.
Quincy Hankins-Cole, who finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, hit two free throws to tie the game at 68 with 28.2 seconds left in regulation. When Tay Spann missed a short runner in the lane and the Cougars couldn’t convert after an offensive rebound, the game went to overtime.
A floater by Justin Hicks gave Pikeville a 72-70 lead at the 2:50 mark of overtime and the Bears were ahead to stay. David Nyarsuk, Mountain State’s 7-1 center, fouled out late in regulation and Wells felt that was a key factor in Pikeville’s overtime success. Hankins-Cole was able to go to work inside without having to worry about Nyarsuk’s intimidating defensive presence.
“He just covers the entire paint,” Wells said of Nyarsuk. “It was extremely important to get him out. We tried to take it at him, but he’s going to be a great player. He’s going to have an NBA opportunity.”
Spann led the Cougars with 16 points, while Nyarsuk had a team-high 11 rebounds.
Mountain State coach Bob Bolen felt his team got the scoring opportunity it was looking for on the final possession of regulation.
“Tay got a 5-footer and then we did a good job of getting an offensive rebound and took the ball up strong,” Bolen said. “I thought it was back and forth the whole game, but we had a hard time with Setty shooting those 3s. The difference in the game was they hit 11 shots from 3-point range and we hit four.”
The Cougars showed their inside power in the first half with Nyarsuk contributing seven points and nine rebounds and Spann scoring 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting. Mountain State maintained the lead for most of the half, but Pikeville wouldn’t go away. Thanks largely to the outside shooting of Hicks and Setty, the Bears were within 41-36 at the break. Hicks and Setty each had 14 points in the half, with Setty hitting four 3-pointers and Hicks adding three.
With Pikeville down by six, Setty hit two more from beyond the arc early in the second half to tie it at 45.
Setty, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, said the NAIA championship ranks with the most memorable moments in his life.
“I feel like I have a shot that is as pure as any,” Setty said. “I’m as confident in my shot as anybody. Tonight, we weren’t hitting anything for a while and I felt like I had to step up.”