Hawks Claim GSAC Crown in 77-72 Overtime Win Against LaGrange in Roland Arena
MONTGOMERY, Ala. —Huntingdon College sent its five senior basketball players out with a Great South Athletic Conference championship in the final game of the season in front of an excited crowd in Roland Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Hawks outscored LaGrange College 14-9 in overtime for the 77-72 victory, after the Panthers sank a game-tying 3-pointer with nine seconds left in regulation.
After finishing regulation tied at 63-63, the Panthers took a two-point lead by scoring first in overtime. The Hawks scored 11 straight points, 74-65, while holding LaGrange scoreless until 20 seconds remained in the extra period. The Panthers were forced to foul for a comeback chance, but the damage was done with Huntingdon claiming the title for the first time since the 2005–06 season.
“I'm so proud of how hard our five seniors played today and it's great sending these guys out with a conference championship ring,” said head coach Mike Pugh. “The Roland Rowdies [student section] gave us a big boost several times in the game when we were struggling. I give credit to our fans for helping energize us when we needed it today.”
Senior Adrian Williams received tournament MVP honors after recording a game-high 22 points and 9 rebounds in the overtime championship victory. Williams also blocked three Panthers' shots. Seniors Deshaun Williams and Ephriam Hudson also posted double digits with 21 and 10 points, respectively. Senior Jack Montgomery added 7 points and 7 rebounds in his final game.
The GSAC championship game started out slowly, with nearly two minutes of action passing by before LaGrange scored the first basket. In a close first period with more than ten lead changes, Huntingdon gained its largest margin after outscoring LaGrange 7-1 in the final three minutes before intermission, 37-29.
Huntingdon held onto its first half lead until LaGrange's Nic Whitfield made a pair of free throws with 5:34 left in regulation, giving the Panthers a 53-51 advantage. The Hawks fell behind LaGrange late in the final period, but Hudson's 3-pointer with 29 seconds left on the clock gave Huntingdon the one-point margin, 61-60. Hudson knocked down two free throws with 18 seconds left, 63-60, but the Panthers' Blake Craft's 3-pointer with nine seconds tied the contest. Hudson missed a 3-pointer as time expired sending the contest into overtime.
“Both teams played their hearts out today in the championship game,” said Pugh. “There were some times we [Huntingdon] were reluctant to shoot the ball, but we played hard and started making shots.”
For the game, the Panthers out-shot the Hawks 45.6 percent (26-of-57) to 37.7 percent (20-of-53) from the field. Both teams finished even at 38 rebounds in the overtime thriller. Huntingdon capitalized on 32-of-46 attempts from the free throw line, while LaGrange finished 15-for-22 from the charity stripe.
“Winning the GSAC championship was the first goal we talked about four months ago and it's great these guys played well and accomplished it,” said Pugh. “This championship helps us in recruiting and is a positive way to end our season.”
LaGrange was led by Whitfield with 19 points followed by Blake Craft's 18 in the GSAC finals loss to Huntingdon.