BRISTOL, Tenn. - Union College gave top-seeded Bluefield (Va.) College a battle, however the Rams, ranked eighth nationally, eliminated the fourth-seeded Bulldogs behind 85-76 decision in an Appalachian Athletic Conference semifinal contest Friday.
The season for Union ends at 15-15 and Bluefield advances to the AAC Tournament Championship game Saturday at 6 p.m. with a 27-5 record. The Rams also extended their winning streak against conference foes to 20 games. Bluefield will play the winner of the Milligan (Tenn.) College and King (Tenn.) College contest.
The 2009 tournament ended for Union like the 2008 version did as Bluefield was the team to knock out the Bulldogs with a 100-82 score. The Bulldogs suffered their eighth straight defeat against Bluefield.
Sophomore Michael Hester (Independence, Ky.) tied his career high with 17 points in the contest. The Union guard had 11 in the opening half.
Bluefield owned the advantage early thanks to a 7-5 score. The Bulldogs clawed back and Hester poured in two points to make the score 11-10 five minutes into the game. The Rams tied the game at 15 before Union went on a 9-1 run over a seven-minute span to gain control. The Bulldogs held onto the lead and took a 39-35 advantage into the locker room at halftime. The lead would have been seven points, but Borgia M'Bala hit a 3-pointer in the corner as the half ended.
To start the final half, Bluefield reeled off the first seven points in the opening three minutes. Union was not out of the game as the Bulldogs answered and regained the lead on two occasions as Kearney Demus (Lexington, Ky.) scored four of his 17 points. His two free throws made the score 45-42 with 16:20 left in the contest.
After Bluefield took the lead once again, Tino Washington (Lexington, Ky.) scored which put Union back in front, 51-50. A Coryon Ross 3-pointer handed the lead and momentum back to Bluefield and the Rams never looked back. Bluefield eventually built a 14-point advantage and the closest Union could fight back was within seven points.
To go along with Hester and Demus' 17 points apiece, Beau Brown (Athens, Tenn.) scored 11. Hester was also credited with six assists. James Johnson (Lexington, Ky.) grabbed a team-best nine rebounds.
Ross ended the game with 25 points. Omar Reed contributed a double-double with 17 points and a dozen rebounds.
Union knocked down three more field goals than Bluefield, but the Rams went 9-for-16 behind the 3-point line while Union was 3-for-7. Bluefield also owned the free-throw line in the contest that featured 54 total fouls. The Rams went 32-for-43 at the line and on the other side Union was 23-for-33.