BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King Tornado clinched the Conference Carolinas West Division in a 79-56 win over Belmont Abbey College, Wednesday night. The Sea of Red was in full effect while Logan Lyle set a new career high in points scored and Lio Gedeon set a new personal best in rebounds. The Tornado earned their 12th league win to stay unbeaten in conference play.
King earned their 20th win of the season with the 79-56 victory over the Crusaders marking the fifth time the Tornado have done so in Head Coach George Pitts' six years at the helm of the program. Prior to Coach Pitts' arrival, the Tornado reached the 20-win plateau only four times since the 1980-81 season.
Freshman Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) scored a career-high 25 points against Belmont Abbey, surpassing his previous career high of 23 set against Bluefield State on Nov. 26. He has recorded seven consecutive games of at least 14 points, including a pair of 20-point games. He now has three 20-plus point games in his first season with the program.
One game removed from setting a career high in points scored, Lio Gedeon (Marsh Harbor, Bahamas) set a second career best by recording 16 rebounds. Six of his rebounds against the Crusaders were on the offensive end, also a personal best. Gedeon has recorded double-digit boards in six of his last eight contests.
King held a ten-point or more lead for almost the entire second half, but received its first sniff of the advantage near the 8:29 mark of the first half when Michael Fortune (Beckley, W. Virginia) hit his second three pointer in a three-minute span. The junior and teammate Eddie Piccinini (Orlando, Fla.) hit back-to-back threes to build an 11-point edge over Belmont Abbey. The Crusaders whittled the lead down to five with 6:48 remaining in the first, but Lyle's 4-for-7 first-half performance helped take a nine point lead into the half, 41-32.
The Tornado quickly extended the lead to 14 points in the first four minutes of the second session behind three Piccinini field goals, two from three-point range. After BAC's Matthew Graves and Brandon Goss (St. Louis, Mo.) exchanged buckets to make for a 55-43 score, King continued on a 21-9 run to take them down to the 2:39 marker. Lyle and Nathan Vannoy (Piney Flatts, Tenn.) continued to drain threes late in the contest, hitting three in the final four minutes of the game.
Lyle hit five threes on 12 attempts (.417) and went 8-for-18 (.444) from the field for the game. He added four rebounds and a pair of assists in 31 minutes played. Piccinini was hot from behind the line, hitting four of his six tries from distance for a 66.7 percent mark.
Michael Fortune scored nine of his 15 points with the deep ball. He and Piccinini both went 5-for-9 (.556) shooting overall. DeShaun Greer (Lewisburg, Tenn.) tied a career high with eight points while adding a pair of rebounds, a block, and a steal in eight minutes on the floor.
Senior standout Brian Hewitt (Lexington, Ky.) returned to the lineup after missing three games due to a hand injury. He played 17 minutes and brought back his strong defensive play on the perimeter. He scored two points on 1-of-5 shooting and brought down three rebounds.
King (20-4, 12-0) scored 22 of its points off of 16 Crusader turnovers. Goss was responsible for three of the team's eight steals. The defense held Belmont Abbey to 37 percent shooting and only 14.3 percent from long range, including 0-for-8 from three-point range in the second half.
The win locks up the number-one seed in the West Division of Conference Carolinas, ensuring the Tornado at least one home game during the conference tournament. King will play Queens (N.C.) this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Royals are 15-7 overall and sit in first place in the East Division with a 10-1 conference mark. Queens can clinch the East Division and have a slight edge in the overall number-one seed with a win on Saturday.