MISENHEIMER — Pfeiffer capped off a seven-game winning streak with a championship victory Sunday afternoon, resulting in the men’s basketball program’s first USA South East Division title.
Although the second-seeded Falcons (10-2, 8-2) saw their 16-point halftime lead over the fourth-seeded Averett Cougars (6-7, 5-5) disappear as the Cougars made an offensive push in the second half, Pfeiffer held on for a 72-70 win thanks to a late defensive stand.
The conference divisional title was the men’s team’s first championship since it was a member of the NCAA Division II’s Conference Carolinas in 2017. Pfeiffer advanced to the title game with an 87-81 overtime win last Wednesday over third-seeded Methodist (5-7, 5-5) in the first round.
Pfeiffer head coach Pete Schoch says he trusted his team’s ability to withstand Averett’s late run in the game.
“I had a lot of faith that the kids would be able to come back, and they did,” Schoch said. “The second half, from an X’s and O’s standpoint, certainly wasn’t perfect, but the kids tried really hard. I was pleased that they were able to pull it out and make plays when they needed to. We have nine seniors, so you think you’re in a pretty good position to win close ball games. Their age, maturity and experience from last year really came to the forefront.”
Normally, winning the conference finale wouldn’t mark the end of a team’s season, but due to the NCAA’s recent decision to cancel the Division III tournament, Sunday’s game stands as Pfeiffer’s final performance of the season.
“It’s a really bizarre year. There’s no NCAA Tournament, so to end the year on a win is a real rarity,” Schoch said. “But for the kids to be able to put something in the trophy case — and from where we started and all the things we’ve been through — is really fun. Defensively, I think they really pulled together and were much tougher from top to bottom. This was the first year where our interior game really developed as the season went on.”
Junior guard Taylan Rowe led the Falcons on Sunday with 19 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals. The former West Stanly High standout made 5 of 7 3-pointers and matched his season-high point total from Feb. 28.
Pfeiffer’s defense held Averett to only 36.6% shooting (26 of 71), and the Cougars made just one of their 15 3-point attempts (6.7%).