Kirkwood, the No. 4 seed, overcame a slow start to edge fifth-seeded SLUH. The Pioneers will take on either St. Mary’s or McCluer North in the semifinals.
Jonah McDowell scored 13 points and Damien Loyd added 12 points for Kirkwood (7-0), No. 10 in the large school rankings.
SLUH scored the first eight points of the game and led throughout the first half. Mikey Sanders, A.J. Hardin and Matt Leritz each scored seven points as the Junior Billikens led 23-18 at halftime.
“Regardless of who we’re playing, we’ve managed to reach down in the fourth quarter,” Kirkwood coach Bill Gunn said. “We’ve had some fourth-quarter deficits, tonight we were down at halftime. We’re resilient. My guys know if we stay together, we can overcome a lot of things and that’s important.”
Kirkwood took the lead in the third quarter, outscoring SLUH 18-10. Loyd scored seven points and Jack Kanzler added six points for a rejuvenated Pioneers’ offense.
A Leritz trey helped SLUH tie the game at 42-42 late in the fourth quarter. Free throws by Travis Lien and Loyd gave Kirkwood a slim lead.
Hardin had a last second chance for SLUH, but Kanzler stripped him on the drive to the basket with 2.5 seconds left.
“I thought defensively we did a better job of challenging their shots and not allowing second chances (in the second half),” Gunn said. “Once we started rebounding, we played a lot better.”
Hardin finished with 19 points for SLUH (4-6). Leritz scored 12.