augusta free press news

Hill’s heroics cap Longwood rally to stay unbeaten in Big South

longwood athleticsJustin Hill scored Longwood’s final six points in a thrilling finish, including the go-ahead and-one with 3.7 seconds to play to give Longwood a 71-70 win.

With less than five seconds to go, Hill blew by his man, banked home a layup that tied the game at 70 before hitting the ensuing free throw to cap an 11-3 run to win the game.

Now, Longwood is 4-0 in the Big South, has won five straight and sports a 12-5 overall record, with both the conference and overall record representing program bests at the Division I level. In addition, the Lancers sit atop the Big South North Division as one of only two unbeaten teams in Big South play.

“It was an amazing finish, miraculous,” said Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich. “There’s a lot in that. There is the lack of giving in, there’s the desire to keep fighting. There’s the belief, the confidence in one another. All of those things are really significant. That doesn’t get talked about a lot when people about rosters and skillset. But when you talk about chemistry, what goes on in the locker room, that’s a group that really believes in themselves, that believes that they can be really good.

My encouragement to them is that they’ve got something special going. I say that in a spiritual, mystical way where it’s going their way. But as I encouraged them, they need to respect it. They’re doing something that’s never been done at Longwood: the best start in conference history, the best start in the Division I era. But they have to respect it. It is not working, it is fighting to maintain the urgency. That’s not human nature. It’s fighting to maintain the standard, and that’s not human nature. ”

The fourth straight conference win also marked the third straight season the Lancers have won four straight Big South games under Aldrich, who also directed the program’s second best start to a season with a 10-5 mark back in 2018-19.

The latest win, the team’s fifth in a row, featured a last-minute comeback that bordered on miraculous, as Longwood erased a seven-point deficit in the final 91 seconds. DeShaun Wade and Hill keyed the offense, scoring 10 of the team’s final 11, and Trevon Reddish went 3-6 from the foul stripe for Presbyterian to keep the door open.

“I’m excited for Justin, and again, just for his growth,” said Aldrich. “This is, in my opinion, a part of his maturation. Justin is becoming a leader, and people are believing in him. He works very hard, cares a lot about his game. He’s a long ways from home, and I think he has really grown as a player but also as a young man. We’re just starting to see the beginning of who Justin Hill can be.

Wade and Hill were a potent duo for Longwood, as they combined for 40 points. Hill had a team-high 23 while Wade added 17. Jesper Granlund and Isaiah Wilkins each added nine points as well, with Wilkins scoring all nine of his in the second half.

“DeShaun is the engine in many respects,” Aldrich said of his senior team captain. “One of our team captains, which we do by committee, but DeShaun is our spiritual leader. DeShaun, in my opinion, is one of the key elements to this team. He gets them going. He plays so hard on defense. Defense is so critical to us, and he’s the one who sits down to defend. He’s the one who dives on the floor, gets physical plays. I think he’s the type of guy who commands the respect of the other guys, so when he’s doing the dirty work, it really elevates the whole team.”

Wade helped key that dirty work on defense to set up the furious finish by holding Presbyterian (8-12, 0-5 Big South) without a made shot over the final four minutes of the game. While Rayshon Harrison, the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year, had 29 points, Longwood was able to keep him away from the ball in the final 90 seconds.

In the first half, the Lancer defense was excellent and helped the team take a 35-26 lead at the break, but Presbyterian came out with new life after halftime. The Blue Hose surged and took the lead, eventually expanding it to 58-50 with five minutes left.

Wilkins and Hill ripped off a 7-2 mini-run to trim it to one possession, but free throws kept Presbyterian afloat until the final minute.

“As Isaiah Wilkins said in the locker room, ‘Guys, we can’t do that. It’s going to catch up to us,'” Aldrich added. “We escaped tonight. In the first half, I thought we were outstanding. I thought we were locked in defensively, I thought we did a really good job. Then in the second half I thought it was a different story. We’ve got to be able to react to that and be able to execute. Things just went our way to end the game. I feel for Presbyterian. I thought they played really hard.”

The Lancers stay on the road and head to Hampton for a Monday night matchup with the Pirates at 6 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPN+ as well as WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.

For the latest in news, scores and schedules, head to www.longwoodlancers.com, download the HorsePower Fans app, or follow the Longwood social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook.


augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

%d bloggers like this: