BRISTOL, Tenn. – Jason Seymore's layup while fighting through traffic helped put King University up by a single point and a missed free throw on the other end opened the door to victory in Thursday night's dramatic 76-73 victory over the Limestone Saints. The Tornado fought off a balanced Limestone attack and overcame them with help from Eddie Piccinini's team-high 18 points and Jason Seymore scoring the most important three points on the game in the final 34 seconds of the game.
King (13-3, 8-2) and Limestone jostled for the lead through the entire second half. The Saints held the largest lead of the half by a mere five points but was erased by the eight-minute mark with help from back-to-back three pointers by sophomore Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) and senior Eddie Piccinini (Orlando, Fla.). Piccinini's three gave King a 65-63 lead with 8:14 to go with the drama just starting to unfold.
The final eight minutes featured four lead changes and three tie scores before King outlasted the Saints. Limestone took its final lead when PJ Foster worked off of a screen and found an opening at the top of the key to hit a three pointer, giving the Saints a 73-72 lead with 1:12 to go. Limestone called a timeout immediately to set up for the King attack, but mattered not. The Tornado worked down the court and as junior guard Michael Fortune began a charge into the lane, the Beckley, W.Va. native found Jason Seymore (Powell, Tenn.) with a tight pass down left side of the lane, in stride. Seymore put home the go-ahead layup with 34 seconds left to give King a lead and rile the KU crowd to its feet.
Limestone had a glimmer of hope when Piccinini was called for a blocking foul, King's ninth team foul, as PJ Foster raced into the frontcourt, sending him to the line for a one-and-one opportunity and a chance to tie or take the lead. Foster missed short and right on the front end of his trip and Seymore snatched the rebound out of the air before immediate being fouled. Seymore swished both of his free throw attempts as King rested in the double bonus, increasing the lead to three points, 76-73.
With chants of the newly minted K-U chant ringing through the Student Center Complex gymnasium, the defense clamped down for one final stand against the Saints offense. Foster fought through some pressure at halfcourt but failed to get a shot off before the final buzzer rang, declaring King the victor.
Seymore finished with eight points and nine rebounds but no larger were his final four points that also served as the Tornado's last scores of the game to go-ahead and seal King's eight Conference Carolinas victory of the season to keep pace with conference leader Barton College.
Eddie Piccinini started the game strongly by scoring King's first four points and six of their first eight of the game. The senior co-captain finished with a team-high 18 points and shared the team lead in assists (4) with Michael Fortune.
Fortune was part of a trio of Tornado players with double-digit scoring efforts, finishing the night with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including a pair of three pointers.
King possessed a lead that topped out at 16 points in the first half but the Saints slowly chopped into the lead over the final 5:21 of the opening stanza, beginning with a three-point play by Phillip Moultrie. The Saints finished the first half on a 14-2 run, eight points of which coming from the Saints' leading scorer Charles Blue. PJ Foster capped the half with a three as time expired to trim King's lead to three points, 46-43.
Limestone's three-point shooting in the second half (5-10, .500) kept them level with King through the duration of the second half as King cooled offensively but nine Saints turnovers lead to seven free points for the Tornado. In addition, King's inside defense helped keep the Saints from building upon their early second-half lead and stole opportunities away from them late in the contest. Freshman Malcolm St. Louis swatted away Charles Blue's runner attempt to maintain a 70-70 tie and a swarming press forced Phillip Moultrie to turn the ball over, taking away another possession from the Saints.
The Saints (13-3, 8-2) were paced by Charles Blue, whose game-high 19 points came from a 7-for-13 shooting night. PJ Foster (12) and Joe Raga (10) joined Blue in double-figure point totals. Raga led the Saints with nine rebounds, one short of achieving a double-double.
With the win, King keeps pace with Barton at the top of the Conference Carolinas standings. Barton (8-1) holds a half-game lead over King (8-2) in league play with their only loss coming at the hands of the Tornado earlier this year.
In addition to the win on the court, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at King University scored a major win for a local youth who attended Thursday night's game. As part of SAAC's Make-A-Wish Foundation project, young 'Kellan' was "adopted" and a special effort was made to make her wish of going to one of the family-friendly Disney theme parks a reality. After a successful fundraising mission was initiated that included the selling of 'Support Stars' and Make-A-Wish t-shirts, SAAC announced that the recorded count at game's end was $2,231, all of which will be donated to Kellan and her family to make that wish come true.
The Tornado will play their next two games on the road at Coker College (Jan. 26) and at North Greenville University (Jan. 30). They will host Barton on Feb. 2 in the Student Center Complex before celebrating Solid Blue on Feb. 6 with a home game against Erksine College.