Ashley Watts lost the battle of the top two Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference scorers on Saturday.
Instead, she won what mattered most.
Watts scored 30 of her 35 points after halftime and Paine rallied for an 89-84 homecoming win in overtime over Albany State.
Watts, who entered with a league-best 18.8 scoring average, shot 11 for 27 from the field, swishing all five of her 3-pointers in the second half. She added six assists, five steals and four assists.
“I knew I had to do something to get us back in the game,” said Watts. “I had to get a feel for the game. In the second half, I came out and knew what I had to do.”
Albany State’s April Thomas, who entered with an 18.1 scoring average, swished eight 3-pointers en route to a game-high 37 points. She drained her final three with 8:55 remaining, extending the Albany State lead to 65-54. With Kiara Farley and Tannasia Rhodes defending Thomas, she didn’t score the rest of the way.
With two of their final three games at home to close out the regular season, the Lady Lions (10-13, 8-5) have a real shot to finish in the top two in the SIAC East Division and gain a bye for the first round of the conference tournament. Paine, 5-0 in the HEAL Complex against league foes, entered Saturday 1 1/2 games back of second place.
“The difference is we have a home we can call our own,” Lady Lions coach Willie Adams said. “It’s amazing how you can get set in one place and how comfortable you can be.”
With Paine down eight against Albany State, Watts drained a 3-pointer. She followed with another 3 from the left corner to pull the Lady Lions within 69-67 with six minutes remaining.
Watts later popped another 3-pointer to stake Paine to a two-point lead with 2:50 to go. In overtime, Watts opened with two free throws. Paine never trailed from there.