Lions basketball teams earn conference win over Wolves

by Sports Editor Jacob Cole

Editor’s Note: This article contains quotes from The Times Daily.

Women’s Basketball

The North Alabama women’s basketball team grinded out a win over Gulf South Conference foe West Georgia to improve to 15-1 overall.

The Lions earned the 74-63 win behind sophomore Ivy Wallen’s season-high total of 34 points. She also added eight rebounds and five assists in the win.

Head coach Missy Tiber said the team was lucky to come away with the win.

“The two main things we talked about were defensive rebounding and taking care of the ball, and we were terrible at both,” Tiber said. “Our foul trouble had something to do with the rebounding, and we were doubling them down low so that left the weak side open. It was just a very physical game and our kids played well under the circumstances.”

The Lions had three players foul out, including two post players, down the stretch of the game. Senior Michaela DeKilder and sophomore Brittany Panetti both started the fourth quarter with four fouls and  ended up fouling out of the game, forcing Tiber to tweak the lineup.

Tiber said a freshman stepped up to take the role.

“It was tough with Brittany and Michaela in foul trouble,” Tiber said. “We finally went with Darby (Madden) ,and she defended well and got us a few rebounds.”

DeKilder said the physical nature of the game surprised the team, but the adjustments made helped push the Lions toward the win.

“It was pretty frustrating because they hit us around pretty good,” she said. “I don’t think we were fully prepared for how physical it would be. But the players we needed to step up really stepped up at the right time.”

Free throw shooting aided the Lions while they hit 27 of 38 free throws. The free throws helped in the win due to the fact the Lions shot just over 35 percent from the field in the game.

West Georgia cut the UNA lead to 61-59 with over three minutes left in the game, but the Lions stormed back behind Wallen’s late scores.

Wallen hit eight free throws and scored two baskets to extend the lead out and get UNA the conference win.

The Lions gained a mental win after last year’s loss to West Georgia in the GSC tournament. DeKilder said the team wanted to cleanse the thought of last year’s season ending loss.

“We did have that game on our minds and we didn’t want a repeat of it,” DeKilder said. “Plus, we knew this would be our last time to play here, so we definitely wanted to leave our mark here.”

The Lions finished a three-game road stretch going 2-1 but have two games in Flowers Hall this upcoming week against GSC opponents.

Men’s Basketball

The North Alabama men’s basketball team bounced back with an overtime win over West Georgia after the loss to No. 18 Christian Brothers Jan. 9.

The Lions relied on junior DD Smith throughout the fourth quarter and overtime. Smith scored a three-point play off a foul in the last seconds to extend the game into overtime.

Smith scored seven overtime points, including a three-pointer, to ice the game and win by a score of 99-92. He also finished with 27 total points to lead UNA in the Gulf South Conference win. Smith said the defense stepped up in the overtime period.

“I told everyone on our bench that (West Georgia) messed up by giving us another five minutes,” Smith said. “We did a great job defensively to get the stops at the end and get it to overtime. Once we got it to overtime, I knew we were going to get it done.”

Lions head coach Bobby Champagne said the overtime production from his offense boosted the team.

“We shot it well at the free throw line and got some big rebounds,” Champagne said. “Obviously, DD made some big shots, but we executed really well in overtime. We ran the same play 6 or 7 times and got something different from it every time.”

The Lions had three players foul out in the game, but junior Kevin Ndahiro stepped up to score seven points and seven rebounds in his first playing time this season.

Champagne said Ndahiro’s performance was big in the close win.

“Kevin got some big rebounds for us and made some key free throws,” Champagne said. “Kevin’s teammates have really been pulling for him, so it was great to see him step up the way he did today.”

UNA hit two three-pointers and a dunk in overtime along with going seven for 10 at the free throw line in the last two minutes.

In overtime, UNA hit 80 percent of the shots taken and went 26 for 33 shooting free throws in the entire game.

The Lions had five players score in double figures. Smith’s 27-point performance helps juniors Tavaras Tolliver and Kendall Sheffield’s 18 point-games.

Seniors Sharwyn McGee and Jeff Hodge added 11 points each in the win.

Champagne said the team’s intensity in overtime helped with the win.

“We came out in overtime with some attitude, effort and toughness, which is what you have to have to win on the road in this league,” Champagne said.

The Lions grabbed another win in the three-game road stretch including a win against rival UAH Jan. 20. They will play two home games against GSC opponents.