MONTGOMERY, Ala. ---- For the first 28 minutes on Senior Day, almost nothing was going right for the Auburn Montgomery women's basketball team against Loyola. A jumper by Janeicia Neely gave the Wolfpack a 46-32 lead with 12:05 remaining.
Loyola would hit just one more field goal the rest of the way. An Ashley Rush layup with 1.3 seconds left capped a 20-7 run for AUM to end the game, giving the Warhawks a thrilling 54-53 victory in their regular season finale.
"It's all on the players," head coach Dan Davis said. "They took ownership of the team on that court and just refused to lose. I'm proud of them, but we've got some big goals going into next week. We're not done."
The Warhawks (21-8, 13-5 SSAC) will enter the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament as the second-seed from the West division. AUM plays Coastal Georgia at 12:30 p.m. at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery on Thursday. Loyola ends the regular season at 11-15 (8-10).
AUM trailed 53-49 with just 10 seconds remaining when Psachal Maize banked in a long 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one. The Warhawks quickly fouled Neely, who missed both of her free throw attempts with seven seconds to go. Kamesha Strong grabbed the rebound and tossed the ball ahead to Katie Williams, who found a streaking Rush for the game-winner.
"I saw Kamesha get the rebound and pitch it ahead, so I just ran down the lane," Rush said. "To be honest, I thought I missed it because it was rolling around forever. But it went in, and it's really exciting to get a win on Senior Day."
Rush and Strong were two of four seniors honored after the game, joining Caitlin Cunningham and LaKenya Drayton. Cunningham had seven points and a team-high 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass, while Drayton grabbed nine rebounds.
"Those four seniors have been outstanding for us all year," Davis said. "I truly believe they willed the locker room to win that game."
Maize led the Warhawks with 17 points, while Williams added 15 points and four steals. The pair scored 26 of their points in the second half, with Maize scoring 13 points in AUM's run to end the game. Rush's layup gave the Warhawks their first lead of the game.
Both teams were sloppy with the ball in the opening 20 minutes, combining for 17 turnovers. AUM, though, committed just four in the second half compared to 14 for the Wolfpack.
The Warhawks won despite hitting just 32.2 percent of their shots in the contest. Loyola shot 38.3 percent from the floor. Neely led the Wolfpack with 15 points and eight rebounds.
AUM closes out the regular season with its most wins since the 2006-07 team finished 28-6. The Warhawks defeated their conference tournament opponent, Coastal Georgia, 56-52 on November 30.
"We really needed this win coming off a bad loss on Thursday," Rush said. "This will give us plenty of confidence heading into the conference tournament."