MONTGOMERY, Ala. ----- Michael Acoff, the lone senior recognized on Senior Day, capped a career-high 20 points with a jumper in the lane with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Auburn Montgomery men's basketball team a 79-78 victory over visiting Loyola Saturday at the AUM Gymnasium.
With the win, the Warhawks finished the regular season with a 13-13 record, including a 10-8 mark in Southern States Athletic Conference play. The win total matches the combined total of the past two seasons for AUM and also secures the No. 3 seed in the West Division in the upcoming SSAC Tournament. The Warhawks were picked to finish second to last in the SSAC Preseason Coaches' Poll and last in the SSAC West Division.
"I think a couple months ago, we would have bent a little bit in a game like this," head coach Larry Chapman said. "Tonight, our stability gave us a chance. I thought both teams played very well. This was a great win for our team and was a tremendous compliment to these young men. We have had our share of disappointments, but we never quit. Coach Hubbard has added so much to our basketball program and helped change the culture. I feel fortunate to be a part of such a rewarding win for our players at this point in my career."
Acoff and Quay Davis each finished with 20 points for AUM, while Reshad Bickham added 11 points and a team-leading seven rebounds. Davis also finished with six assists, five rebounds and three steals, while LaRel Jackson chipped in eight points and seven assists. Acoff finished 9 of 10 from the field and pulled down five rebounds.
"It was so rewarding for me to see Michael excel," Chapman said of Acoff. "Tonight, on Senior Night, we started him and he really played well. Him hitting that game-winning basket was almost a story-book ending for Michael and was an incredible win for our basketball team."
The Warhawks started the game with a furry, racing out to a 29-12 lead with 10:10 remaining in the opening half, following a lay-up by Davis.
However, the Wolf Pack (15-13, 9-9 SSAC) closed the half with 20-10 run to trim the deficit to seven points, 39-32, at the intermission.
AUM opened the second half with eight straight points to extend the lead back to a comfortable margin of 15 points, 47-32, following a lay-in by Acoff with 17:18.
Loyola again had an answer and used a furious 20-6 run during the next 6:10 to pull within one point, 53-52, with 11:08 remaining. McCall Tomeny keyed the spurt with 10 points during the span.
Down the stretch in regulation, the teams alternated baskets, with neither squad pulling ahead by more than four points. AUM led by four points, 71-67, with 34 seconds remaining following a trey by Justin Zachary.
However, Tomeny trimmed the margin to two with an offensive put-back with 23 seconds remaining, before Aleksandar Matoski tied the score with 1.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Following a jump-ball turnover with 1.2 seconds left gave the ball back to the Wolf Pack, Robert Lovaglio's desperation shot from just behind half court, bounced off the iron, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Warhawks scored the first six points of the period, four of which were by Acoff. However, Steve Davis gave the Wolf Pack a 78-77 lead with 21 second remaining, their only lead of overtime. Acoff closed the victory with a left-handed jumper in the paint that fell with 0.8 left in the extra period, sending AUM to the win.
"My teammates told me to go out with a bang before the game," Acoff said. "Even if I didn't set a career high in points, I wanted to do a lot of the small things to help us win. The final play wasn't drawn up for me, but for Quay, who has proven he wants and deserves the ball with the game on the line. Justin (Zachary) passed the ball to me when he was in trouble and the next thing I heard was ‘three seconds' and I knew I didn't have time to pass the ball. My left hand was open so I went with it and was happy to see the shot go in. I couldn't ask for a better ending and for better group of teammates."
For the game, the Warhawks shot a season-high 60 percent from the floor, while hitting 50 percent of their shots from distance. AUM could have iced the game from the free throw line, but it hit just 5 of 12 from the charity stripe. The Warhawks also committed 19 turnovers.
Tomeny led all players with 27 points, while Lovaglio added 19 points.
The Warhawks will return to action late on Thursday, Feb. 28, when they take on the No. 2 seed from the East Emmanuel College at 9:45 p.m. at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl in the SSAC Tournament.