Both Lee squads built early advantages, but after being forced to overtime, the Lady Flames succumbed to an 82-77 tally. Meanwhile, the Flames led by a half dozen at the half before the host Lions roared to a 76-69 final.
Lee will look to regroup and return to action on Monday when they move on over to Jackson and face an old TranSouth Conference rival in Union University. The double header is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start and will be carried on 104.1 FM beginning at 6:50.
After letting a 20-point lead slip through their fingers, the Lady Flames drop to 6-3 overall and 2-1 in Gulf South Conference (GSC) action, while UNA improves its records to 7-3 and 2-2 GSC. Lee will have short turnaround before facing Union (8-1, 3-0 GSC) Monday evening. Union and Delta State are the only teams left that are unbeaten in conference play.
“What bothers us is not that we lost, but how we lost,” said Lee head coach Marty Rowe after Saturday’s game. “We’re playing basketball teams with a lot of pride. You have to finish them off because they’re not going to quit.”
“We’re going to have to figure out how to bounce back against Union. We play the two best teams in the league in the next two games,” added Rowe.
Hollie German led all scoring with 33 points. The senior was 12-for-20 from the field and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.
Karley Miller made good on 7-of-11 shot attempts to tally 19 points. Jenna Adams was the only other Lady Flame in double-digits with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Rachel Lockhart dished out a career-high eight assists and grabbed eight boards in the loss.
Leading the way for the Lions was Lauren Faris. Faris was 9-for-11 at the charity stripe and finished with 27 points. Jennifer Towne and Nichelle Fillmore each threw in 18, while Delisa Madry gave UNA four players in double-digits with 12 markers.
The Lady Flames shot 50-percent (29-for-58) from the floor and made 7-of-20 3-point attempts. The Lions made 23-of-53 (.434) of its shots from field and 7-of-17 from distance.
Lee won the rebounding battle 36-33 but turned the ball over 25 times to UNA’s 19 floor mistakes.
The big difference came at the free throw line. Lee went to the line 16 times and converted 12, while the home team made good on 29 of its 41 trips to the line.
“About 10 of those shots they don’t get if we grab the rebounds,” said Rowe. “Instead of just two shots, they got four. The determining factor is that we didn’t do our job.”
A driving layup by German with eight seconds left in regulation tied the game at 67 and forced overtime. UNA had taken its first lead of the second half with two made free throws following an administrative technical foul when the Lady Flames attempted to call a timeout when they didn’t have one available.
The Lady Flames built a 20-point advantage (50-30) with 13:30 remaining in the second half, but the Lions went on a 23-5 run to close to within two with 3:55 left on the clock.
After trailing 6-2 with a little over three minutes off the clock, the Lady Flames went on a 16-3 run to take a nine-point lead. Lee led by as much as 13 in the first half and held a 32-23 lead at the break.
LIONS 76, FLAMES 69
Host North Alabama marched to the free throw line 29 times and converted 19, out-rebounding the Lee men 46-33 Saturday afternoon.
The Flames (6-3, 2-1) held a 38-32 lead at the break and built the margin to nine points (47-36) on a basket by Valentino Thomas with 16:45 remaining in the hard-fought battle. The Lions came roaring right back and tied the game at 51. The teams exchanged the lead at least four times down the stretch before North Alabama converted key free throws and claimed a seven-point victory.
"Our kids played hard," said coach Tommy Brown. "I certainly can't fault the effort, but we missed too many bunnies in the second half. We were getting the shots we wanted, but we couldn't convert. I guess that will be a part of the growing pains of this young team in a very tough league."
Thomas was extremely hot in the first half and paced the early Lee advantage with 16 points in the opening 20 minutes. He finished the evening with 20 points. Corey Billingsley picked up the scoring slack in the second half and scored 22 points. No other Flame scored in double figures.
For the winner, Rashaun Claiborne had a double-double, 18 points and 13 rebounds. He also converted key free throws near the end. Bruce Adams also had a double-double, 12 points and 11 rebounds. Overall, the Lions shot 40 percent from the field after being held to only 29 percent in the first half.
Lee finished the game with a 41 percent shooting mark and canned 6-of-15 3-pointers. The Flames were awarded only 11 free throws and were able to convert just six.
"Free-throw shooting hurt us late in the game," noted Brown. "In the second half I thought it was a case of our offense hurting the defense, and our inability to hit the bunnies sparked them on the offensive end. Don't take anything away from North Alabama, like everyone else in this league, they are a strong physical basketball team."