FLORENCE — A wild game had an even wilder finish for North Alabama on Saturday afternoon.
Nathan Spehr buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 4.0 seconds remaining to give the Lions a thrilling 95-94 overtime victory over Valdosta State, keeping UNA (7-0, 2-0 GSC) unbeaten on the season.
Spehr’s trey was the last of several dramatic shots in the final minutes. Valdosta State’s David Murray hit a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it into overtime and Shaquille Harris nailed a trey with 26.5 seconds remaining that appeared to win it for the Blazers (6-1, 1-1).
But a basket by Bruce Adams cut the lead to one and Harris then missed the second of two free throws with 10.6 seconds left. UNA guard Marquel Darrington pushed the ball up the floor and found Spehr open in the corner.
“We had set up two high screens with two shooters in the corners,” Spehr said. “My defender ran over to help on Marquel and I was ready for the shot.
“I had made my three previous shots, so there was no hesitation. It felt good out of my hands and looked straight. It was the best feeling in the world to see it go in.”
The Blazers got one final shot but Harris’ 3-pointer bounded off the rim, giving UNA the victory.
“I don’t claim to be prophetic, but I told Nathan after our shoot around that he was going to have to be big for us today,” coach Bobby Champagne said. “He is starting to shoot with confidence, We had several guys come off the bench and contribute today.
“This is a huge win because again we fought through some adversity and keep playing. We had some foul trouble and then they make the shot at the buzzer to force overtime. Our guys were able to fight through it and get another win.”
UNA won despite sending the Blazers to the free-throw line 40 times and being outrebounded 52-41.
The Lions also struggled offensively as the Blazers blocked 13 shots. UNA shot 41.9 percent from the field, but did hit 14 of 30 (46.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
UNA appeared to be pulling away midway through the second half and led 59-49 at one point. The Blazers, however, came back and trailed by three in the final seconds.
Valdosta State missed two shots as the final seconds ticked off the clock, but got the offensive rebound. Murray got the ball and was able to step beyond the arc and bank in the 3-pointer at the buzzer. UNA argued that his foot was on the line, but the game went to overtime.
“Somebody on the bench said it was like a boxing match, and that’s what it felt like,” Spehr said. “We were both undefeated, so it was like a battle for the top spot in the conference.”
Harris’ trey in overtime put the Blazers up 93-90. UNA then went inside to Adams for a layup to set up Spehr’s game-winning shot.
“Bruce’s basket was huge,” Champagne said. “They were out on our shooters so we got the basket and then fouled quickly. We had the final play set up and Marquel did a great job pushing it and getting the ball to Nathan.”
Adams led six Lions in double figures with 24 points. Rashuan Claiborne added 19, followed by Spehr with 12, DeAndre Hersey and Long with 11 each and Darrington with 10. Harris led the Blazers with 23 points, while Josh Sparks had 14 points, 16 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
UNA will play Oakwood on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.