KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Union College guard DeAntray Stevens scored a game-high 26 points, as the No. 24 and top-seeded Bulldogs opened up a big second half lead, and held off a late Milligan (Tenn.) rally to defeat the fourth-seeded Buffaloes, 92-87, in the Semifinals of the 2014 Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday.
With the win, the Bulldogs captured their 27th victory of the 2013-14 season (27-4 overall), matching the program record for wins in a season that was set by the 1967-68 Bulldogs.
Union also advances onto the Championship Game of the AAC Tournament, where the Bulldogs will take on sixth-seeded Virginia Intermont Saturday at 2 p.m. at the MeadowView Convention Center.
In the first period, the Buffaloes came out hot, opening a quick 11-2 lead with 12:54 to go in the half. Union, however, quickly bounced back from the early deficit, going on a 13-3 run over a two minute span to take their first lead of the day at 15-14.
After the lead swung back and forth over the next 10 minutes, Union ended the half strong on an 11-2 run to go into the half for intermission up 34-27. The Bulldogs rode the wave of momentum to start the second half, rolling on a 18-8 run to open the period to go up by their biggest margin of the day (17 points) at 52-35 with 15 minutes left.
This lead would hold for the Bulldogs for the rest of the game, but Milligan did not bow out quietly over the final 12 minutes of action. After the Bulldogs increased their lead to 20 points (62-42) with 12 minutes left, the Buffaloes crawled their way back in it, cutting the Union lead all the way down to four points (76-72) with 3:26 left.
But, Union scored on their next trip down the floor to stop the threat and eventually put the game on ice with successful free throw attempts down the stretch.
The closest Milligan came to the lead was in the game's final moments, as they trailed by just three (90-87) with eight seconds left. After a foul, however, Union made two free throws to end it, as the Bulldogs hung on for the five-point win.
Overall, Stevens shot 6-of-10 from the floor in the contest, nailing six threes, and making 11 free throws on his way to his 26-point afternoon. The guard also dished out five assists in the win, as well.
Elsewhere, forward Deante Johnson scored in double-figures yet again with 21 points and seven rebounds. The last Union player to score in double-digits was Tarik Smith, who came off the bench to score 19 points and dish out seven assists.
Milligan was led in the loss by Cartree Pettis, who scored 21 points, as the Buffaloes end their season with a 17-13 overall mark.
On Saturday, Union will play Virginia Intermont for the AAC Tournament title, as the sixth-seeded Cobras upset second-seeded Reinhardt (Ga.), 80-75. The Cobras, led by AAC Player of the Year Joshua Hart, gave the Bulldogs all they could handle during the regular season, despite Union coming out on top in both games.
In the first match-up on Nov. 26, Union squeaked out a 105-103 victory at VI, while on Feb. 3, the Bulldogs gutted out a 123-116 win in overtime at Robsion Arena. The Bulldogs will look for their second AAC Tournament Championship in program history in the game, and first since 2011.