By Chris Megginson, Stillman Sports Information Director
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Jordan Bell secured the rebound off an airball 3-pointer miss by WCU’s Willie Moody, and Derrick Finklea quickly raced to the other end to give Stillman College an 83-82 lead over William Carey University with 5.4 seconds left.
Khalil Johnson then guarded Moody up the floor, forcing an off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer to secure Stillman’s seventh Southern States Athletic Conference win of the season.
“We wanted to make sure we kept the ball in front of us and not foul the shooter. Our guys did a good job making them dribble the ball up the floor and not move the ball quickly,” said Stillman College head coach John Teasley.
In a game that saw 12 lead changes, Finklea’s basket was the Tigers first lead in the final six minutes after trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half.
“William Carey is always well prepared for us every year. Coach Steve Knight is one of the best coaches I’ve had the honor to coach against. You know every time you get one of his teams in here, it’s going to be exciting. I’m glad our guys were able to pull out the win,” Teasley said.
Finklea led Stillman with a double-double 16 points and 11 assists, scoring the first and last baskets of the game. After an initial layup by Finklea to open the game, Stillman did not gain its next lead, 35-33, until a fastbreak, alley-oop dunk by Finklea off a Jamar Jackson steal with 6:42 left in the first half. The dunk capped a 7-0 run and followed a dunk by Bell and a game-tying 3-pointer by Brenden Lankford-Johnson.
The Tigers managed to stay in front down the stretch in the first half, but Earl Smith raced down the court with 3.8 seconds left to hit a 3 at the buzzer and send William Carey into halftime on a 7-0 run and with a 51-49 lead.
WCU worked its lead to a dozen points, 67-55, in the first six minutes of the second half. Finklea, Johnson and Lankford-Johnson combined for a 7-0 run. Before long, Devin Merriweather swiped a steal to set up a dunk by Bell, and then grabbed a defensive rebound and scored a jumper to pull Stillman within a basket, 70-68, with 9:54 to play. Stillman did not gain its first lead of the second half though until a Johnson layup with 5:35 to play.
Both teams shot 54.5% from the floor in the game and better than 46% from 3-point range, combining for 24 total 3-pointers in the game.
The Tigers spread its scoring around with five Tigers in double digits. Jackson’s 15 points followed Finklea. Johnson and Lankford-Johnson each scored 11 points, while Bell finished with 10 points and a team-best five rebounds.
WCU was led by Earl Smith’s 26 points, while Moody finished with 15 points. John Rawls scored 12 off the bench and Emile Kazeneza had 11 points. TJ Ward was the game’s leading rebounder with seven.
Stillman’s win gives the Tigers (11-8, 7-4 SSAC) sole possession of third-place in the Southern States Athletic Conference standings, one game back of Faulkner University. Loyola (10-1 SSAC) sits atop the standings. The Tigers are 8-4 against William Carey, including 5-1 at home in Birthright Alumni Hall.
Stillman will now host Blue Mountain Christian University on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. to cap the only Thursday/Saturday SSAC homestand of the season.