Lions edge West Alabama in overtime thriller

UNA senior forward Bilal Richardson soars to the rim for a dunk against West Alabama. The Lions defeated the Tigers 91-89, as Richardson led the team with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

Beating a rival is a sweet feeling, but doing it in overtime might be even better.

The UNA men’s team came back from a 10-point deficit, tying opponent West Alabama in regulation on a Jeff Hodge layup, en route to a thrilling 91-89 overtime victory.

Trailing 89-88, the go-ahead basket came on Bilal Richardson’s put back in the paint. After failing to score, West Alabama (4-5, 1-3) fouled senior John Fletcher, who sunk one of two free throws. The Tigers turned the ball over in the final seconds, sealing the victory for UNA (5-5, 2-2).

“We have worked on these (tight game) situations for the last 39 practices,” said UNA coach Bobby Champagne. “Tonight, our players were able to see the effectiveness of when we execute. They did what they were supposed to.”

Senior Bilal Richardson led the Lions with 22 points and 17 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive boards. UNA out-rebounded West Alabama 40-29.

“My team needs for me to rebound,” Richardson said. “I told the team any rebound that comes up, I wanted it to be mine. I take pride in that. It’s real tough playing in foul trouble, but we remained calm and pulled off the win.”

Richardson, junior Austin Timms and junior Da’Shaun Griffin each had four fouls in regulation. Junior guard Dimarrio Jackson fouled out in regulation, finishing with 14 points and 5-5 from the charity stripe.

West Alabama’s leading scorer, senior Simeon Dennis, fouled out after racking up 25 points. Champagne said the two foul outs had a big factor in the game, allowing freshman guard Tavaras Tolliver to take over for Jackson.

“I’m not sure how valuable Dennis is to them, but I know how valuable Dimarrio is to us,” Champagne said. “Dennis was playing well for them, that’s for sure. It was good to see Tavaras step up.”

Tolliver finished with nine points, including two clutch free throws to keep UNA in the game. Hodge finished with 14 points, shooting 5-12 from the field.

“I knew with me being on the team and having some experience, I needed to step up and make that play at the end,” Hodge said. “I knew I had to get to the basket. It got our momentum going.”

The Lions end their December home stand in Flowers this week, facing Lee University (3-6, 1-3) Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. and Shorter University (4-4, 0-3) Dec. 19. at 3 p.m.