MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Huntingdon senior Austin Hill made the steal and eyed the basket in the final seconds of the Hawks' 91-84 overtime win over Birmingham-Southern on Tuesday.
Hill, with a step on the defender, put the exclamation mark on the game with a dunk and also drew the foul with nine seconds to play. Hill's free throw was good and the Hawks began to celebrate their first win over the Panthers since February 2011.
In addition to snapping a five-game losing streak to the Panthers, the win helped ease the memories of a 90-42 loss to the Panthers (8-6) in December.
"Beating a rival is always big, but it's especially nice after our first game with them," Huntingdon head coach Mike Pugh said. "They beat us by 48 points a month ago. That's something all of us were thinking about tonight. We had a great crowd out here tonight and it was nice to finally see our guys' hard work rewarded."
In the six games between the two meetings with Birmingham-Southern, the Hawks (2-11) have steadily improved. Other than a loss to Concordia on Jan. 14, the Hawks have led late into the second half in every game. But the result was just one win and four losses by 10 points or less.
"We've been playing really well for the past few games, but we haven't had much to show for it," Pugh said. "When you keep working hard and you keep coming up short, it wears on you. This is a boost for the players and coaches.
"I'm proud of our guys for their effort and the way they played tonight against a good team. Birmingham-Southern made some big plays, but we answered back and didn't quit."
Huntingdon led for most of the game but couldn't put the Panthers away until overtime. The Hawks led by as many as 11 points in the first half and 10 points in the second half, but behind 40 points and seven 3-pointers from Larry Thomas, Birmingham-Southern kept it close. The Panthers hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation to force overtime.
In overtime, Huntingdon took control. Trailing 83-81 with 1:30 to play, Jerome Davis sank a 3-pointer to give the Hawks the lead for good. Davis added two free throws with 30 seconds to play, Jason Varney added two more free throws with 19 seconds left before Hill put Huntingdon ahead by seven in the final seconds.
"Austin has really stepped up big for us in the past few games. He's playing lights out," Pugh said. "He was in foul trouble early tonight and was on the bench for a good portion of the game. But in the second half and overtime, he played with a level of maturity and confidence that helped make the difference."
Hill, who leads the USA South Athletic Conference with 20.8 points per game, finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. At halftime, Hill had five points and three fouls. In the past six games, Hill is averaging 24.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Davis added 15 points, six assists, five steals and five rebounds for the Hawks. Terry Moorer and Dantavius Washington each scored 13 points and Byron Dudley finished with 11 points. Moorer also had nine rebounds.
Huntingdon returns to action on Saturday at home against North Carolina Wesleyan. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.