“First team to 100 usually wins, and they got to 100 first.”
Bobby Champagne’s postgame comment after Saturday’s 101-99 overtime loss to Union was right on the money. Union became the first team to hit the century mark against the Lions this season, and in the process dealt Champagne’s team a tough loss as it battles for the regular-season Gulf South Conference championship.
It was a difficult loss as the Lions began the stretch run to the end of the regular season — not because of the standings so much as they had chances to win and couldn’t seal the deal for one of the few times this season.
UNA led by 3 but gave up a game-tying 3-pointer to Corleion Pearson with 3.4 seconds to play to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, UNA led by 4 with under a minute to play. Then it surrendered Union’s 13th 3-pointer, this one by Roy Bullock, and turned the ball on inbounds play on back-to-back possessions to allow the Bulldogs to steal a home-court victory.
It was a rare close loss for the Lions, who previously had won 6 of 7 games decided by six points or less. Saturday’s loss also provided another glimpse of how balanced the GSC is. Cliché? Sure. It was only the sixth win for Union but also its second straight. A week ago, the Bulldogs knocked off Christian Brothers, the league’s third-place team that owns two wins against the Lions.
Champagne gave kudos to Union, which played nothing like a team with nowhere to go in the postseason. The Bulldogs are transitioning to Division II this season and are not eligible for the upcoming GSC tournament. However, they seem to be embracing the spoiler role.
They hit big shot after big shot throughout and on a day when defense was rarely evident, forced two turnovers in the closing seconds that sealed the win.
For the Lions, it was clearly a missed opportunity. UNA had a chance to tie rival Alabama-Huntsville for the league lead with a win, but now drops one game behind.
Aside from how well UNA played offensively — 51.5 percent shooting from the field and a 43-27 rebounding edge — the key now is how a team that has lost 2 of 3 will respond. The regular season championship will be decided in the next two weeks.
Champagne was disappointed with UNA’s defensive effort and pointed to a couple of plays that were the difference.
“When you have four guys in double figures scoring and you get beat, it’s on the defensive end where we allow them to shoot 54 percent,” he said. “I say allowed, but they did a good job executing their offense and we did a poor job of stopping them.
“We made a couple of bonehead plays where we got a steal and it was 2 on 1. Instead of pulling it out and running some clock, we went in and shot a contested layup. That was a big play. Give them credit; they outplayed us when it got tight.”
Champagne called it a “bad loss.”
“Not because of their record, but because of what was sitting here in front of us with a chance to be tied going into next week with Shorter and UAH,” Champagne said. “We talked about it before where it balances out – we missed some plays and they made some plays. The next four games are big. There are no gimmes in this league at all. We have to put this behind us.”
UNA lost the game but not the season Saturday. But it’s crunch time for the Lions, and their response the rest of the way ultimately determine the success of the 2012-2013 season.
Contact Gregg Dewalt at 256-740-5748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @greggdewalt on Twitter.