FLORENCE — It appeared that the North Alabama women were going to win with another big comeback with freshman guard Jennifer Towne again being the hero Thursday night.
Less than two weeks ago Towne hit a 3-pointer from more than 30 feet in the final seconds to give the Lions a dramatic win at Delta State.
But this time Towne’s potential game-winning shot would not fall as her layup at the buzzer fell off the rim as Shorter escaped with a 61-60 victory over the Lions.
After starting 4-0 in Gulf South Conference play the Lions (11-5, 4-2 GSC) have now dropped two straight home games.
Shorter (8-6, 4-3) held the one-point lead and was at the free-throw line with 5.0 seconds remaining. When the Hawks missed the free throw UNA’s Mekena Randle grabbed the rebound and headed up the floor before finding Towne streaking toward the basket.
“I thought Mekena was going to take it all the way,” Towne said. “I was a little surprised to get the pass and didn’t really have time to gather myself – I just had to put it up. My momentum sort of carried me through and it just didn’t go in.”
Shorter built a 14-point halftime advantage and led by as many as 19 early in the second half.
Coach Terry Fowler said the final shot was not the reason for the loss.
“We can’t keep digging these big holes early in games,” Fowler said. “At some point that has to change.”
Shorter shot 59.3 percent from the field in the opening half, while the Lions shot 33.3 percent. That lead to the Hawks taking a 38-24 lead into halftime.
The Lions chipped away at the lead and trimmed the margin to 55-49 with 6:43 to play. Lauren Faris later capped a 7-0 run with a steal and layup to put UNA ahead 56-55 with 3:46 to play.
“There was no doubt that we were going to come back,” Fowler said. “But we missed some free throws and let them get some offensive rebounds that kept us from getting a bigger lead. We didn’t make many championship plays tonight.”
A key turnover by the Lions led to a 3-pointer by the Hawks that put Shorter up 60-59. UNA regained the lead with 38 seconds left on a jumper by Abby Andrews, but Shorter scored on a putback to go up 61-60.
UNA was then playing for the final shot when it turned the ball over and was forced to foul with 5.0 seconds remaining. Karisma Boykin missed the 1-and-1 and Randle got the rebound, but Towne’s final shot would not fall.
Nichelle Fillmore led UNA with 12 points, followed by Randle with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Lynette Harris and Shelby Farrer scored 10 points each for Shorter.
UNA will play at UAH on Saturday.
“We have to come out with more energy from the start,” Towne said. “We’re too laid back early and it has hurt us. We have to be able to start faster.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.