PIKEVILLE – A strong finish to the first half helped second-ranked Pikeville hold off hot-shooting Joseph McClain and his Bluefield Rams for a 93-82 win on Thursday at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
With 8:24 left in the first half, the Bears were up by just three at 21-18, but outscored Bluefield 18-11 the rest of the way to get to halftime with a 10-point lead. That advantage at intermission was important as the Rams trimmed their deficit to as few as four points in the final 20 minutes.
An 11-0 UPIKE run midway through the second half was also crucial to holding off the Rams.
It was a 62-57 UPIKE lead with 12 minutes left, but when Macari Brooks sank a pair of free throws four minutes later it was 73-57. The closest Bluefield would get before time expired was seven points, but the Bears quickly rattled off a 7-2 run to take back control.
Credit McClain for doing everything he could to give the Rams a fighting chance. He connected on four of his five 3-point attempts to score 17 points in the second half alone. McClain ended up finishing with 22 points and nailed five threes.
For UPIKE, Brooks was a little bit better, pouring in a game-high 28 points, including knocking down three 3-pointers of his own. Marshall Bennett was active in the post with 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds, as was Colt Chapman with 13 points and eight boards. K.K. Simmons added 15 points as he hit three 3-pointers in the second half.
Both teams shot just under 50 percent from the field, but UPIKE gave itself a boost with a 40-32 lead on the glass and outscoring the Rams 18-11 off turnovers.
UPIKE will get a little bit of a break before returning to action next Thursday in the Mid-South Conference opener at Life in Marietta, Ga. The Bears, which have won a nation’s best 48 straight at home, won’t play again in the Expo Center until Dec. 10 against Cumberlands.