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UNA basketball out of ASUN tournament

Treasure Franklin

UNA basketball ended the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament season with losses from the men’s team to Austin Peay and the women’s team to Central Arkansas.

The UNA men’s basketball team started their ASUN journey by facing the University of Central Arkansas at Farris Center, Conway, AR, on Mar. 1.

The game started with a layup by the Bears’ Elias Cato, who led the team with 23 points. The Lions would catch up quickly with two free throws from freshman guard Jacari Lane.

First half scoring was dominated by UCA. Despite the efforts of the game’s leading scorer, Damian Forrest, who scored 18 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes played. The first half ended with UCA’s Anderson Tucker scoring a free throw in the last two minutes of the game and making the score 39-45 in favor of UCA.

UNA’s KJ Johnson initiated the second half with a 2-point field goal. He would end the game with 15 points in 34 minutes played. The Lions tied it up at 53-53 with a steal by Forrest leading to an assist to Will Soucie, who would score a layup despite a foul, converting on the free throw as well. UNA would go on to outscore the Bears by 10 points in the second half, beating the Bears, 82-78.

UNA led the game in fast break points, which exemplified the team’s admirable defense, and in off-turnovers. The incredible comeback guaranteed the Lions a spot in the quarterfinals of the ASUN tournament, where they faced Lipscomb.

After their UCA win, UNA traveled to Nashville, TN, where they took on the Lipscomb University Bison for a spot in the ASUN Semifinals.

The game started with a 2-pointer from LU’s Will Pruitt, who would lead his team with 20 points in 40 minutes. The first half was dominated by UNA, shooting 58% from the field and 63% from three-point range, while LU trailed in both categories..

The Lions maintained a scoring advantage over the Bisons through the majority of the second half, but with a 3-pt field goal, AJ McGinnis, finally took the lead back for LU, bringing the score to 63-64 in favor of Lipscomb. The lead would change three more times late in the second half.

With 3 seconds left, LU tied the game with a 3-pointer from Owen McCormack. It was then when UNA’s own KJ Johnson did the impossible with an impressive fastbreak 2-point field goal at the last moment before the game was over. Johnson’s buzzer beater would win the game for the Lions, 77-75, earning UNA a spot in the ASUN Semifinals.

The Lions faced the Austin Peay Governors for the glorious spot in the ASUN Finals on Mar. 7 in Los Angeles.

The first half was marked by many lead changes in score. It was only when, at 28-29 in favor of the Bisons, Jacari Lane performed a jumping shot that resulted in 30-29 in favor of the Lions.

Though UNA held the scoring advantage for the majority of the first half, APSU’s Dezi Jones would tie the game with a free throw with only two minutes left in the first half. Jones led the Governors’ side with an impressive 34 points scored, while the second-highest scorer in his team only contributed with 12 points.

Soon after, UNA regained the advantage with a jump shot scored by KJ Johnson and a layup in the paint by Forrest. The first half ended at 44-42 in favor of the Lions.

APSU’s player Ja’monta Black initiated the second half scoring a 3-point field goal assisted by Jones. UNA’s Howell seemed inspired by the idea and scored a 3-point field goal soon after, regaining a 2-point advantage with an assist from Lane.

Ties and lead changes were plentiful; the game’s winner was uncertain. Lions and Governors were in a heated, fierce match.

At 58-57 in favor of the Lions, a time-out was called. It is not known what the APSU Governor’s coach said to motivate the team. What is known is that they came back from the time out convinced to take the UNA Lions out of the tournament.

Dezi Jones scored two free throws, a 2-point field goal, and another two free throws in sequence, leading the score to 58-63. A 2-point layup by Lane reduced the score to a 3-point lead. With a foul by the Governors’ Dez White, Lane’s free throw once again reduced the lead by one point.

What followed was not what the Lions needed. With less than six minutes for the game to end, the Governors had augmented their lead by nine points.

At 67-73 in favor of the Governors, Lane snatched a rebound, which, with a Governors’ foul, allowed the player to score four free throws in sequence.

The Lions player’s effort was insufficient to regain the game’s lead. Lane represented the last points UNA’s team scored in the match.

From there on, APSU missed two field goals. UNA’s Forrest grabbed a rebound, but missed the field goal attempt, which led him to be substituted by the benched Will Soucie.

Governors’ Witt Sai, who contributed nine points, committed a foul, leading to a missed free throw by UNA’s Detalian Brown.

Anxiety seemed to have taken the lead of the game, especially for the Lions. With 18 seconds for the game to end, Howell committed a foul, which led to the first point of the game since many missed one. Peay player Isaac Haney achieved a 4-point lead with two free throws in the basket.

Following, UNA missed the two plays that might have given the Lions the needed hope to win. Howell missed a 3-point field goal and Brown a 2-point field goal.

With an offensive rebound by Dez White and a foul by Soucie, the UNA Lions said goodbye to the ASUN tournament, with the last two free throws being scored by the Governors’ player White.

UNA’s women’s basketball team ended their regular season against Central Arkansas on Mar. 2 at Farris Center, Conway, AR.

The game Allie Craig Cruce, who scored 11 points throughout the game in a 2-point layup in the paint.

Bears’ player Leah Mafua managed a turnover. However, with a steal executed by UNA’s Alexis Callins, Cruce scored another two points.

The beginning of the quarter was marked by many changes in leadership, but at 7-9 in favor of the Bears. Callins’ 3-point field goal guaranteed UNA’s advantage, which persisted till the end of the quarter. 

With UCA’s player Randrea Wright’s free throw from Katie Criswell’s foul, the quarter’s score was 23-19 to the Lions.

The Bears arrived at the second quarter with a fierce hand. Kinley Fisher scored a 3-point field goal, followed by two 2-point field goals by Mafua and Wright.

With a foul committed by UCA’s Elizabeth Abiara, Cruce was able to achieve a 1-point lead for the Bears with two in-the-basket free throws.

UNA’s closeness in points to UCA did not last long. The second quarter ended with a 7-point lead for the Bears at 39-46 with Fisher’s 2-point field goal.

The Bears initiated the third quarter with a 2-point field goal managed by Jade Upshaw. With one of Cruce’s 3-point attempts blocked by Bree Stephens, UNA lost an opportunity to regain the lead. Soon after, Abiara augmented the Bears’ advantage to 11 points by scoring a 2-point layup.

With 50 seconds to go, Wright scored the 2-point field goal that caused a 20-point lead for the Bears. A foul by Fisher allowed UNA’s Rhema Pegues to score two free throw shots and finish with a 51-69 score in UCA’s favor.

Hoping to match the opponent’s score, Callins was the first to score in the fourth quarter. UNA only scored 12 points in the last quarter. The highest point differential happened when Wright scored a 2-point field goal, leading to a 27-point difference at 57-84 in favor of the Bears.

The game’s final score was 63-89 for the Bears. UNA had a 43.6% field-goal percentage, 25% three-point percentage, and 76.9% from the free throw line. The Bears, on the other had, converted on 59.7% of field goals, 84.6% of threes, and 66.7% of free throws.

The women’s second game happened on Mar. 9, at the same arena, and it represented ASUN’s quarterfinals.

The game, which would take the winner to ASUN’s semifinals, started with the Bears scoring 4 points in the first minute and a missed 3-point shot by Pegues.

At 8-6 in favor of the UNA Lions, Upshaw tied the game with a 2-point field goal. Soon after, UNA’s India Howard, who scored 11 points throughout the game, regained the game’s lead. UNA was leading with a 12-11, but a 3-point field goal by the Bears’ player Stephens gave UCA a comeback.

From there, the lead was changed four more times, finishing the quarter on the Bears’ hands with a 19-23 score.

At the beginning of the second quarter, neither team scored in the first minute. A foul by Howard, with eight minutes to go, allowed Fisher to score two free throws. After this, the Lions struggled to match the Bears in points when the smallest point difference was 5 points. The highest was 10.

With most points coming from free throws and having missed a few shots, the Lions found themselves at a disadvantage once again. The quarter ended at 27-37 in favor of the Bears.

The third quarter began with three substitutions for UNA and two for UCA. The freshly substituted Leah Mafua missed a 3-point shot, rebounded by Cruce. In sequence, Mafua attempted another missed field goal, which was rebounded by Howard and led to Cruce’s 2-point field goal in a layup. 

At 34-41 in favor of the Bears, Callins, who led the Lions’ scoring with 14 points, managed an impressive steal but Clutter missed the 2-point shot.

Despite the Lions’ efforts, the last five minutes of the game were marked by low scoring and a few substitutions from both teams. A foul from Criswell, which led to Wright’s free throw, the last point of the quarter, finished the period at 38-53 for the Bears.

The Lions showed an incredible but desperate defense in the fourth quarter.

With seven minutes to go, the first score of the quarter was managed by Wright, who augmented the Bears’ lead by 17 points.

Callins managed to score an incredible 3-point field goal, but soon, two field goals by Cheyenne Banks recovered Callins’ damage.

The Bears kept increasing their score advantage to a game-high 25-point difference with three minutes to go.

UNA managed to lower the difference to 14 points with one and a half minutes to go when Pegues’ layup gave the team 2 more points. However, the score was still 52-66 in favor of the Bears, and that was the last point UNA scored in the 2024 ASUN tournament.

The game ended with one of Fisher’s 3-point field goals, raising the advantage to a 17-point leadership.

In an attempt to minimize UCA’s damage toward the Lions’ numbers, Callins shot a 3-point field goal but missed.

UNA finished with 36.5% field-goal percentage, 42.1% from three and 50% from the charity stripe. UCA achieved 48.2 percent in field goals, 18.2 in 3-point field goals and 68.8 of free throws.

Even though the UNA women’s basketball team suffered two high-scoring losses, the tournament brought the university immense pride by having two other players receive post-season honors. Senior Alexis Callins was nominated for third team All-ASUN, and the freshman Veronaye Charlton for All-Freshman Team.

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About the Contributors
Manuela Ludolf
Manuela Ludolf, Sports Editor
Treasure Franklin
Treasure Franklin, Deputy Chief Photographer
Treasure Franklin is a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Applied Behavior Analysis. She is a member of the LaGrange Society, Student Government Association (SGA), and is in the Cole Honors College, as well as the Presidential Mentor's Academy. She is currently serving as a Staff Photographer; she has previously served as the website editor, and she has been a volunteer photographer/writer with The Flor-Ala since August of 2021.

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