With the game on the line, Paine senior guard Thomas Broughton knew what he had to do.
"I didn't want to lose," he said. "I wanted to take it upon myself to take it to the basket."
Broughton scored five points in the final minute Wednesday night and the Lions held on for a 67-64 win over Claflin at Carter Gym.
With the game tied at 57, Paine acting head coach Jimmy Link told his team to attack the basket. Broughton drove the lane for a layup, got fouled and then converted the three-point play with 50 seconds remaining. Later, Broughton swished a pair of free throws as part of his team-high 17 points to give the Lions a three-point cushion.
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference leading scorer Eric Salley, who entered with a 26.3 average, scored points with pinball-like precision down the stretch. Salley, who scored 22 of his game-high 37 points in the second half, scored 11 in the final three minutes. In the waning moments, Claflin needed a game-tying 3, but Salley's attempt from the right wing missed off the rim.
"That guy is too good to be stopped," Link said. "He's a one-man show."
Paine played its fifth game without head coach Ron Spry, who last saw action when the Lions played host to Augusta State on Dec. 2. Spry was placed on indefinite administrative leave from the school, and his status won't be determined until next week at the earliest, Paine vice president of institutional advancement Brandon Brown said before the game.
The 30-year-old Link has had no communication with Spry since he was disciplined, but he said he looks forward to talking to him again soon and is hopeful for his return to the sideline.
"I love him. I miss him," said Link, who is 3-2 since he took the program's reins. "Until he gets back, we have to win."
Paine avenged a season-opening overtime loss at Claflin. The Lions opened the game down 13-2 but climbed back to trail by one at intermission. Paine went on an 18-4 run just after halftime to build a sizable advantage. De'Andre Pettigrew canned a 3-pointer from the corner to cap the spurt and give the Lions a 48-35 lead.
"They've really bought in," said Link, who asked his team at halftime to attack the basket more. "They want to win."