LEBANON, Tenn. – For the first time this season, the University of Pikeville women’s basketball team has won three straight games as it topped Cumberland (Tenn.) 68-63 on Thursday at Dallas Floyd Gymnasium.
The winning streak is coming at the perfect time as Mid-South Conference play is winding down and the standings are becoming interesting for each team’s postseason chances. At the end of the game, the Bears (11-12, 5-6 MSC) were tied for fourth place with Lindsey Wilson (Ky.).
Callisha Johnson paced UPIKE as it completed the regular-season sweep of Cumberland with 21 points and Cheyenne Madden and Kelah Eldridge joined her in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Khalilah Quigley added eight points and a game-best nine rebounds.
TaCouya Allen led all scorers with 23 points for the Bulldogs (9-11, 5-7 MSC) and Casie Cowan finished with 17 points, including two 3-pointers. Allen also matched Quigley’s total of nine rebounds for the game lead.
Pikeville’s defense was stellar, limiting Cumberland to 36.7 percent shooting from the field, which was huge since they did hit 22-of-26 shots from the free-throw line. The Bears also tallied a sizeable rebounding advantage at 40-25, including 10-3 on the offensive glass.
The Bulldogs connected on their first four shots of the game, including three running jumpers by Allen to build an 8-2 lead as Porter was the only Bear to get to the rim for a basket. Porter ended up scoring four straight points to stop Cumberland’s early momentum.
With the Bears continuing to struggle from the field, Cumberland got a boost from a banked in three by Blue and another on the next possession by Colter to build a 16-8 lead eight minutes into the game.
Trailing 18-10, UPIKE went on a 6-2 run with baskets from Brogan Conley and Quigley and a layup from Patrice Tonge to get within four at 20-16. Cumberland responded with a 5-2 run of its own and was getting comfortable at 25-18 before Eldridge scooped in a layup through a foul.
Eldridge drew another foul the next time down and added two free throws, followed by Johnson hitting the Bears’ first three of the game to tie the score at 25. A layup from Crowder two minutes later gave UPIKE its first lead at 29-28 with 2:37 on the clock.
That prompted a flurry of back-and-forth possessions with the lead changing hands three other times before the break. Cowan stuck in a layup to make it 30-29, followed by Johnson hitting hitting another three to make it 32-30 in favor of UPIKE.
Pikeville went without a point in the final two minutes, allowing the Bulldogs to take a 34-32 lead into intermission after leading by as many as 10 points at 18-8.
It didn’t take nearly as long for UPIKE to enjoy a lead in the second half, going up 37-36 on a Quigley layup just two minutes in. Johnson extended the margin to a game-high four three minutes later at the free-throw line.
Down 44-40 with 15 minutes to play, Cumberland went on a 7-1 run that ended with a three from Allen to put it back in front 47-45 in a four-minute span. The lead lasted for the next six minutes until Porter sealed her defender for an easy layup and Eldridge completed a 3-point play to put UPIKE up 54-53.
Cumberland would gain the lead just one more time in the game at 60-59 on a pair of free throws by Cowan with 2:26 to go. Madden came up huge for the Bears, hitting back-to-back jumpers to build a 63-60 lead. The Bears held on for the win by hitting 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch as Colter missed a three to end the Bulldogs’ chances in the final seconds.