After a Mario Jordan 3-pointer sent the Lions into overtime, Paine rallied again for a thrilling 76-73 win over Albany State at Richmond Academy.
“It says a lot about our team,” Jordan said. “I think it shows that we’re a great team.”
Paine improved to 8-4 overall (7-3 conference) and remained a half-game behind Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference leader Benedict (8-3, 7-2). The Lions, who played their third consecutive overtime contest, rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final 80 seconds of regulation. Then, they reversed a three-point disadvantage in the final minute of overtime.
“Our guys were tired of losing,” said Paine coach Jimmy Link, whose team entered with defeats in three of its past four games. “They were tired of playing these close games. We can’t step on anybody’s throat right now.”
The Lions, who endured an 8½-minute stretch without a field goal in the second half, shot a season-low 35 percent from the field.
Derein Chatman swished two free throws with 2:28 remaining in regulation to stake Albany State (5-6, 4-5) to a 64-57 lead. James Devlin responded with a driving layup with 79 seconds to go. After an Albany State foul, Allen Young converted a three-point play. The Lions trailed by two when Tony Baker stepped to the line for two foul shots with 27 seconds left. He missed both.
After Justin Wilcox missed the second of two free throws for the Rams, Paine set up a play for Jordan with 12 seconds remaining. Young and Geno Green set a double screen on the left wing. Jordan got the ball and swung around to the top of the key, swishing the game-tying bucket with 4.8 seconds remaining.
“That’s what all-conference guards do,” Link said. “They have to make those shots.”
In overtime, Wilcox canned a 12-foot jumper with 1:08 left to extend the Albany State lead to 73-70. After Jordan missed both free throws, the Rams committed a turnover.
Green, who missed 10 of his first 11 shots, drained a 15-foot jumper. Then, Chatman fumbled a bounce pass in the backcourt out of bounds.
With Paine down a point with 17 seconds remaining, Devlin lobbed a pass over the Rams defense inside to Young. The Paine center, who posted 17 points and 15 rebounds, turned and banked the ball off the glass. The layup gave the Lions a 74-73 lead.
“I saw an opening and was just focused on going up,” Young said. “I just made sure I finished strong.”
Albany State tried to respond, but Jordan prevented his former Washington County High School teammate, Jaren Harris, from penetrating the lane. Harris missed his 15-foot jumper off the back iron, and Baker grabbed the ball and got fouled. With 1.5 seconds left, he drained both free throws.
As the clock expired, Link slapped fives with assistant Grant Leonard. After Thursday night’s overtime loss, Paine finally had something to be excited about.