In their last chance for conference seeding improvement, the St. Catharine Patriots (17-11, 10-8 MSC) couldn’t slow down an explosive Pikeville Bears’ offense (27-2, 17-1) as they fell 95-77.
With spring break on its way and the St. Catharine Patriots making their final preparations for conference tournament play, victories were coming at a premium down the stretch. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Pikeville Bears rode 52% shooting to a dominating victory in the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center on Saturday.
The St. Catharine Patriots shot a dismal 26% in the first half of play to trail 51-25 at the half. Despite their improved effort and 58% shooting in the second half of play, the Patriots could never overcome the deficit. Led by Raymon Austin (Cleveland, Ohio) with 27 points and seven rebounds, the Patriots rallied with a 52 point second half performance. However, the Bears were able to force the Patriots into 23 turnovers for 27 total points off of turnovers, keeping the Patriots at bay.
Despite their loss, Patriots will head into the conference tournament with a fourth place ranking and an opportunity to avenge their loss to the one seeded Bears in the second round of play. In the first round of action the Patriots will square off with the Red Storm of Rio Grande (16-13, 9-9 MSC), a team that the Patriots split with in the regular season. Earlier in the year the, Patriots fell to the Red Storm on the road 71-68, but were able to avenge the loss with a 78-63 victory in Lourdes Hall. The Patriots will head into the tournament with a #23 national ranking, but that does not guarantee a national tournament position; with the Patriots dropping their final two contests, it may be necessary to win at least one or two conference tournament games in order to achieve a bid to the national tournament in Kansas City.
The Patriots will tip off conference tournament in Lebanon, Tennessee on the campus of Cumberland University on Thursday at 5 PM est. against the University of Rio Grande.