INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – Kelah Eldridge wasn’t interested in being a one-and-done, instead putting together a complete performance of 15 points, five rebounds and three assists to help No. 6-seed University of Pikeville top third-seeded Wayland Baptist University 70-65 on Thursday in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament.
It’s UPIKE’s first win in the NAIA tournament in after coming up short in its previous three attempts, while also tying the school record for wins at 24-8 overall.
In order to move on to Friday’s round, the Bears had to knock off a Flying Queen (25-5) team that hadn’t lost since early December.
But with the help of a 26-point third quarter and some timely baskets late, UPIKE made sure WBU’s 21-game winning streak came to an end.
Prisha Rogers led all scorers with 17 points, followed by Eldridge’s 15 and Kandice Porter and Aundrea Matchen chipping in with 14 points each. Matchen also led the Bears on the glass with seven boards, although WBU dominated on the backboards overall at 50-32.
Wayland Baptist got 16 points from Shayla Monreal, but the Flying Queens shot just 36 percent from the field, compared to UPIKE’s 41.4 percent showing. Free throws helped WBU, hitting 18 of 22 to the Bears’ 17 of 33, but not enough to make a difference in the outcome.
The Flying Queens shot out to a 7-2 lead, but that would be their largest lead of the game as UPIKE used the rest of the first half slowly chipping away at the deficit. It took 19 minutes and 47 seconds to do it, but the Bears grabbed their first lead of the game at 26-24 on a Porter layup before halftime.
Then the third quarter happened, and it happened in a big way for the Bears.
UPIKE scored the first five points of the second half, then a few minutes later, went on a 10-0 run to take its largest lead of 14 points with 3:30 left in the third quarter. By quarter’s end, the Bears had outscored WBU 26-19, scoring as many points as it had totaled in the entire first half.
Wayland Baptist’s final push was a good one, outscoring UPIKE 14-2 to open the fourth quarter, eventually regaining the lead at 55-54 with 7:24 to play. But UPIKE didn’t hang its head and that was evident when it went on a 5-0 run in the final two minutes, including four points from Rogers, to take back the lead at 63-61.
On the next possession, Kayla Day had one of the best plays of the day, finding Matchen alone under the hoop with a bounce pass to make the lead four with a minute to go. From there, WBU made a few plays, but the Bears finally found their footing at the strip to seal the win with makes from Rogers as the Flying Queens struggled against the defensive pressure.
WBU closed the game turning the ball over 23 times, compared to just 16 giveaways from the Bears.