By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
When the dust settled from a raucous final 17 seconds, the Pittsburg State Gorillas were headed to Kansas City.
The Gorillas scored seven points in the final 17 seconds, turning a one-point lead into a thrilling 70-62 win over the Truman State Bulldogs in the opening round of the MIAA Postseason Tournament.
The win moves the seventh-seeded Gorillas into the quarterfinals at Municipal Auditorium where they’ll face No. 2 Central Missouri at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“It was a team win tonight,” Pitt State coach Kevin Muff said. “Everybody that was in there did a good job in some respects. We struggled in other respects, but as teammates should do, they kind of picked each other up.”
Pitt State — which led by 10 with 14:55 remaining and then trailed by four with 8:10 remaining — was clinging to a one-point lead when Rico Pierrevilus, who had just re-entered the game, drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Gorillas a 66-62 with just 17 seconds left.
Freshman Jake Bullard then stole the ball from Truman’s Seth Jackson and finished with a slam before Courtney Ingram’s steal a few seconds later set up JaVon McGee’s dunk with just 2 seconds remaining.
It was a wild finish that started with the trey from Pierrevilus, who had been benched just minutes earlier.
“His body language wasn’t good,” Muff said. “I thought for a senior in his last game, there wasn’t a lot of flying around and activity on his part, so I took him out and put him back in at the end and said ‘here’s your chance.’
“He stepped up and took in with confidence and more power to him. His team needed him do it and he found a way to do it.”
The Gorillas scored 19 of the final 26 points after trialing 55-52 with 8:10 left.
Porter’s trey — he hit four and scored a team-high 19 points — gave the Gorillas a 57-56 lead. TSU scored the next three points to go up 59-57 before the game saw ties at 59 and 61.
McGee’s putback make it 63-61 with 1:01 remaining and Seth Jackson hit just 1-of-2 foul shots 15 seconds remaining, setting up Pierrevilus’ key trey.
Porter and Jake Bullard — both freshmen — combined for 33 points. Bullard scored 14 on 8-of-11 shooting from the foul line, grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and had an acrobatic layup on an assist from Porter that gave the Gorillas a 61-59 lead that sparked a small but rowdy John Lance Arena crowd.
“When Kaleb hit me with that pass and we went up, it was loud in there,” Bullard said. “That helps you. That gives you something to play for.”
Truman State’s aggressive defense lulled the Gorillas into a slow pace in the first half. The Gorillas hit just six field goals and needed 12-of-13 shooting from the foul line to escape to the locker room with a 27-25.
Pitt State opened the second half with a 15-7 run to take a 42-32 lead with 14:55 remaining, but Truman State answered in a hurry, going on a 13-4 run that saw a 3-pointer and a 3-point play from 6-foot-9 junior standout Mark Carlson, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The Gorillas weren’t able to pull away until the final frantic seconds.
“I’m glad they’re out of the league, to be honest with you” Muff said of the Bulldogs, who will leave the MIAA after this year. “Because they’re young and the way they shoot it and what they run and how he coaches them up, they’re a good team.”
McGee score 12 points while Mark Nolen, who was named the MIAA’s Defensive Player of the Year earlier on Monday, finished with 11 points and two steals.