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Lander rallies in OT behind Robinson, Alston as Hilburn gets first coaching win

Lander rallies in OT behind Robinson, Alston as Hilburn gets first coaching win

GREENWOOD – The Lander men's basketball team got a go-ahead three-pointer from Sidney Robinson in overtime and hung on to give interim head coach Ryan Hilburn his first victory, 107-104, over North Georgia in a Peach Belt Conference game Wednesday night at Horne Arena. Thirty three-pointers were made in the game.

The Bearcats improved to 7-12 overall and 6-7 in the Peach Belt. Lander has won five of its last six games at Horne Arena.

"We've got a tough group of guys in that locker room," said Hilburn. "I knew we weren't going to quit, we just had to make some adjustments. North Georgia came in here and competed really hard. It was a great game for both teams. Unfortunately, one of us had to walk away with an 'L' and one of us had to get a win, and I'm glad the Bearcats got a dub tonight."

The Bearcats are currently in seventh place in the PBC standings, keeping them in position to reach the conference tournament.

The Nighthawks fell to 7-11, 2-10.

In the previous two meetings between Lander and North Georgia, the winning team had averaged 106.5 points. Amazingly, this time the winner scored 107.

The Bearcats made 14 of 25 from three-point range (56 percent) including two late in overtime, one by Robinson and another by Elijah Alston. The visitors hit 16 of 33 (49 percent).

Alston scored 15 of his team-high 21 points after halftime, making five of eight shots from three-point range for Lander. Marquel Wiggins added a double-double with 18 points while leading the Bearcats with 11 rebounds. Sidney Robinson also scored 18 points, hitting four of five from behind the arc.

Jordan Dingle nailed three important treys in the second half and finished with 17 points for Lander. Rahu Purdie added nine points, four assists and four steals for the Bearcats.

North Georgia's Shawn Hopkins led all scorers with 29 points while pacing his team with nine boards. Zezmon Steeple added 18 points, Jack Howard scored 15, Lanre Olatunji 13 and Zach Cottrell 12. Ephraim Tshimanga added 11 points and eight assists for the visitors.

Hopkins and Steeple hit two three-pointers apiece as North Georgia rallied from a 9-2 deficit to build a 20-15 lead at the 12-minute mark. The Nighthawks extended their advantage to 40-30 with 4:30 left when Hopkins dunked off Steeple's alley-oop pass.

Sidney Robinson's driving layup at the buzzer pulled Lander within 48-41 at halftime.

Alston's three-pointer near the top of the key and a three-point play by Wiggins cut the Bearcat deficit to 50-49 two minutes into the second half.

Dingle hit a pair of treys to keep Lander close and the hosts finally tied it on Alston's two free throws, making it 61-all with 14 minutes left.

Sidney Robinson's three from the top of the key gave the Bearcats their first lead of the second half at 74-73 with 10:08 to go. He made another trey that gave Lander a 77-75 advantage at the nine-minute mark.

Alston's driving layup broke a 79-all tie and the Bearcats increased their lead to 87-81 on Morris Robinson Jr.'s steal and layup with 5:05 to go.

North Georgia scored eight unanswered points, taking an 89-87 lead on Cottrell's three from the left corner just inside the three-minute mark.

Purdie hit an open three from the left side to put Lander back on top, 90-89, with 2:10 to go.

Olatunji's layup gave the Nighthawks a 91-90 advantage with 1:22 showing.

But Alston's trey from the right side gave the Bearcats the lead back at 93-91 with 57 seconds left.

Steeple missed a three-point attempt from the top of the key with 48 seconds to go and Lander got the rebound. The Bearcats ran the clock down to 15 seconds and missed a shot, but a North Georgia player stepped out of bounds trying to grab the defensive rebound.

However, DeShundre Rucker missed the front end of a one-and-one with six seconds left and the Nighthawks rebounded. North Georgia's Tshimanga drew a foul and hit two free throws with four seconds left to tie the game at 93. Lander's Purdie missed a shot at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

At one point early in the OT period after North Georgia had grabbed a 95-93 lead, both teams were shooting 34 of 68 from the floor.

The Bearcats took their first overtime lead when Alston drove the baseline and made a layup, making it 97-96. But Steeple answered with a short jumper on the other end to put the Nighthawks back on top.

Robinson, however, put Lander on top for good with a trey from the left side to make it 100-98 with 1:11 to go. After a North Georgia miss, Alston drained a three with 45 seconds left, and then Rucker would add two free throws for a 105-98 lead. Robinson added an important basket in the closing seconds because Cottrell and Howard made late threes for the Nighthawks.