BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - It was close to the bitter end, but when the dust settled, it was Union standing victorious with a 69-66 Appalachian Athletic Conference victory over visiting Bryan (Tenn.) on Wednesday.
The win locks up the No. 2 seed for the Bulldogs in next week's AAC Tournament. Tennessee Wesleyan won tonight, securing the top seed with a 17-2 league mark.
Union is 20-8 overall and 15-4 in league play, while Bryan falls to 18-10 overall and 13-6 in the AAC. The Lady Lions are currently sitting in the No. 3 spot for the tournament.
The game resembled a heavyweight bout as both teams slugged it out, pounding the ball in the paint and muscling up on defense. Only once was there a double-digit lead as Union built a 24-14 advantage with 6:05 left in the first half. But a 12-0 run put the Lady Lions up two en route to a 31-30 halftime advantage.
In all, there were seven ties and eight lead changes, and it all boiled down to the final 3:52 of the contest.
Amber Taylor hit a fast-break bucket with 3:52 remaining to give Union a 62-56 edge. But Bryan scored 10 of the next 11 points to claim a 66-63 lead with 55 seconds on the clock. Taylor Neuharth drained a 3-pointer to pull Bryan within one, and Megan Billingsby scored back-to-back baskets to give the Lady Lions the three-point margin.
Haley Perkins scored to cut the deficit to one, and then Lydia Nash was fouled with 23 seconds to play. Nash hit both free throws, lifting Union to a 67-66 lead. On Bryan's next possession, Neuharth drove the lane but was called for charging to turn the ball over to Union with eight seconds on the clock. Reagan King was fouled with 2.3 seconds to go, and she sealed the win by sinking both free throws.
Bryan tried to get in position to launch a desperation 3-pointer, but it turned the ball over on the in-bounds play, allowing Union to escape with the 69-66 decision.
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures with Perkins' 20 points leading the way. Nash and Taylor followed with 14 and 13 points, respectively, and King chipped in 11. Alyson Roberts rounded out the field with 10.
For Bryan, Keila Formont led the way with 16 points, while Victoria Griffin posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Kelsey Brooks helped out with 10 points.
By the Numbers
• This was the final home game for five Bulldog seniors: Taylor, Roberts, Marah Rice, Jennifer Thomas and Sarah Scruggs.
• Union shot 35.1 percent (20 of 57) from the field, 27.3 percent (6 of 22) from 3-point range and 67.6 percent (23 of 34) from the foul line.
• Bryan connected on 36.7 percent (22 of 60) of its shots and made 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) 3-point attempts. The Lady Lions were 15-of-23 (65.2 percent) at the line.
• The Lady Lions dominated the glass, outrebounding the Bulldogs 49-34.
Union will close out the regular season on Saturday in another AAC contest at Reinhardt (Ga.). Game time is set for 2 p.m.