LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- In a matter of seconds, the Covenant men's basketball team's contest with Piedmont changed dramatically. A Chris Boyd steal led to a TJ Cox layup with 1.4 seconds remaining that broke a tie game and lifted the Scots past the visiting Lions 75-72 in a critical USA South showdown inside Barnes PE Center on Wednesday evening.
The win gives Covenant (8-14, 6-6 USA South) its second straight in as many days after defeating Berry 81-65 on Tuesday. It also brings the Scots one step closer to clinching a USA South tournament berth as Covenant stands in a tie for seventh in the league after play on Wednesday.
In a game that saw seven ties and five lead changes, it all came down to the final 10 seconds of regulation. Piedmont had possession with 22 seconds remaining and the shot clock turned off. The Lions' Trae Gaines tried to pass inside but Boyd was there to intercept it. Boyd quickly passed up the floor to Will Portlock who then found a streaking Cox who finished the layup and was fouled with 0.2 seconds left.
Referees would add time back, but Cox made the free throw to complete the conventional three-point play and the Lions would be called for an offensive foul on its following possession.
Cox led Covenant with 20 points, while Nate Frierson came off the bench and knocked down two 3-pointers and ended with 12 points. Colton McGriff scored nine points, all coming in the first half, and Portlock added eight points and three steals.
Covenant raced out to a 13-point lead in the first half after a McGriff jumper made it 30-17 with 11:11 remaining. Piedmont answered with a 19-2 run to grab a 36-32 lead, but the Scots would tie the score at 39 heading into halftime after another McGriff jumper.
The Scots took a six-point lead on a Frierson layup with 15:29 left in the second half, only to see the Lions roar back again. Piedmont gained a 72-69 lead on a Chase England basket with 3:05 left before Cox tied the score at 72 with a 3-pointer just seconds later. Both teams had multiple chances to gain an edge in the final minutes but neither did until Cox's layup secured the win for Covenant.
Trae Gaines register a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead Piedmont (11-10, 6-5 USA South). Justin Vallejo added 14 points and Peyton Luken chipped in 12 points, coming on four 3-pointers, and seven assists. Piedmont had 22 assists on 28 made field goals and shot 56 percent from the fiel, including 63.2 percent in the second half.
Covenant forced Piedmont into 22 turnovers and tuned those into 19 points. The Scots shot 45.6 percent (26-of-57) from the field and 14-of-18 from the free throw line.
Covenant will play its third game of the week on Saturday when it hosts Berea for a non-conference matchup. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m., but Senior Day activities will take place before.