BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead and the Bulldogs could never overcome the deficit as Union fell to the University of Virginia Wise, 86-85, in the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championship.
With the loss Union finishes its season with a 20-13 (11-5 AAC) record. UVa-Wise improves its mark to 17-12 (11-5 AAC) as it will enter the NAIA Division II Championship Tournament.
The Cavaliers came out strong offensively in the first half, converting on 19 of 29 (65.5 percent) from the floor. The opposition built a 17 point lead, 36-19 with 6:15 to play in the first half when the Bulldogs started to fight back, cutting the halftime lead to eight at 46-38 on the strength of 10 first half points from senior Beau Brown (Athens, Tenn.).
Brown battled through flu-like symptoms all night, finishing the contest with 12 points and five rebounds.
Union came out in the second half and made light work of the Cavaliers advantage, taking the lead 55-54 with 14:39 left to play. The remainder of the contest was back in forth as both teams battled for the AAC Championship.
Union claimed its biggest lead of the contest at 83-80 with 1:08 left on the clock on a Kearney Demus (Lexington, Ky.) runner. Demus finished the night with a game high 22 points on 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) shooting from the floor.
From there the Cavaliers cut into the lead on a pair of Kevin Perry free throws, and then reclaimed the lead, 84-83 on a Travis Berry jumper with 23 seconds left.
The Bulldogs then converted on two free throws by Brown to regain the lead at 85-84 with 8.8 remaining in the contest.
Travis Berry went back down the floor for UVa-Wise and forced a jumper that did not fall for the Cavaliers, but Kevin Perry was in the right spot at the right time to put back the errant shot, giving UVa-Wise the lead with just 0.8 seconds left to play. Union's last attempt to claim the championship came in the form of a Darrel Jackson (Jonesboro, Ark.) desperation heave that did not fall.
The Cavaliers went stone cold from the field in the second half, going 9-for-27 (33.3 percent) in the stanza. Wise's Travis Berry hit a layup to put the Cavaliers up four, 67-63 with exactly 10 minutes to play. From that point on the Cavaliers did not hit another field goal until Berry connected again on a15-foot jumper with just 23 seconds left to play.
UVa-Wise managed to hang in and stay in control of the game from the line in the second half, making 20 of 24 (83.3 percent) attempts from the charity stripe. UVa-Wise finished the contest making 25 of 33 (75.8 percent) from the line for the entire game.
The Cavaliers were led on the evening by Pance Kecev's 21 points. Travis Berry also chipped in 19 to aid the UVa-Wise effort.
Senior guard Curtis Stephens
(Detroit, Mich.) chipped in 19 points for the Bulldogs, but was hampered with foul trouble all evening. Jackson led all Bulldog scorers off the bench, finishing the night with 14 points.