CHATTANOGOA, Tenn. — Walters State took a halftime lead in a close game at Chattanooga State and fended off several Tiger rallies in the second half to grab a critical Tennessee Community College Athletic Association road victory Saturday evening.
The Senators never trailed in the final frame despite the home team cutting the deficit to a single point three times in the last eight minutes, and they hit all six free throw attempts in the final 70 seconds to clinch a 79-76 win.
With the victory, the Senators improved to 15-6 on the campaign and 6-3 in TCCAA play, keeping them in the top four in the league and within striking distance of first place teams Motlow State and Dyersburg State.
The loss dropped Chattanooga State to 10-8 overall and 4-5 in region action.
The first half saw the lead change hands five times while the teams were knotted up six times, and the largest lead of the opening 20 minutes was a 7-point margin in favor of the Senators with 7:11 left until halftime.
The Tigers hung tough and trimmed into the margin as the half came to a close, as Walters State's halftime lead was 37-34 entering intermission.
The Senators shot 44.8 percent (13 of 29) from the floor in the first half, making 1 of 5 from long range and 10 of 13 at the foul line while holding a 19-15 rebounding edge. Demontay Dixon led WSCC with 9 points in the half, while Kajuan Hale had 7 points and 4 assists, Miles Thomas fired in 6 points, Khiry Shelton totaled 5 points and Paris Taylor had 4 points at the half.
Chattanooga State shot just 38.7 percent (12 of 31) in the opening 20 minutes, connecting on only 4 of 17 from downtown while making 6 of 8 free throws. Richard Nunez had 11 points to lead all scorers in the first half, while Lorenzo Ferrell added 6 points and 5 assists and AJ Morris netted 5 points in the frame.
The Tigers trimmed the deficit to one on three occasions, but Walters State always responded. The last time was at 64-63, but Thomas scored, Hale converted a 3-point play and Thomas followed with a jumper for a 7-0 run and a 71-63 lead.
Thomas and hale combined to hit all six free throws in the final 1:10 of the game, and the Tigers cut the final margin to 79-76 on a triple at the buzzer.
Walters State shot 45.6 percent (26 of 57) from the field in the win, making 2 of 10 from long range and 25 of 30 at the free throw line while controlling the glass, 35-31. Thomas tossed in 22 points to lead the way for the Senators, while Hale and Taylor both had double-doubles with Hale notching 19 points and 10 assists and Taylor adding 13 points and 10 boards. Dixon finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds in the victory.
The Tigers shot 41.9 percent (26 of 62) in the contest, making 9 of 33 on triples and 15 of 24 on free tosses. Ferrell and Nunez led the home team with 17 points apiece, while Donald Green added 14 and Morris had 10 in the defeat.
The Senators have a week to prepare for their next games, as they will host TCCAA rivals Southwest Tennessee on Friday and Dyersburg State on Saturday.