MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Covenant men's basketball team built a double-digit lead in the second half, but then had to hold off a furious rally from host Huntingdon to take an 81-80 victory on Wednesday night inside Roland Arena.
The win moves Covenant (12-10, 5-6 USA South) up a spot in the USA South standings as the final week-and-a-half of the regular season unfolds. The top eight teams qualify for the league tournament, hosted by the No. 1 overall seed.
Covenant trailed 45-41 at the half, but quickly erased that deficit as Z Arima scored five of his game-high 26 points on back-to-back possessions giving the Scots a 46-45 lead on a jumper with 18:29 remaining. Leading 59-56 with just over 12 minutes left, Covenant scored 11 straight points to grab a 14-point lead at 70-56 after a pair of Arima free throws with 8:31 left. Arima had seven points during the key stretch.
But Huntingdon (2-20, 0-11 USA South) made another run over the final minutes. The Hawks got within one possession as two Aaron Washington free throws with 38 seconds left sliced Covenant's lead to 77-74. Nick Palmer and Will Portlock would each make two free throws on the next two Covenant possessions, but Huntingdon answered each one with a basket to keep it a three-point game. After two Scots misses, the Hawks elected to go for a layup with a second to go instead of taking a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Trey Livingston's layup was good to make it 81-80 and Covenant was able to run out the clock and hold on for the one-point win.
Arima finished with a career-high tying 26 points, 16 of which came in the second half, to lead Covenant. Arima went 9-of-13 from the field with five 3-pointers and three steals. Caleb Haynes had 13 points and four rebounds, while Bailey Spragg and Portlock had 10 points apiece. Portlock added four rebounds, three assists and four steals with Spragg tallying three assists and three boards.
Huntingdon shot 51.7 percent in the opening half to grab the halftime lead. The Hawks led by as many as eight points in the opening period before settling for the four-point lead at the break.
The Hawks were led by 21 points off the bench from Livingston, while Andre Ashley had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Huntingdon cooled off in the second half to finish the game shooting 41.9 percent (26-of-62) and going 19-of-23 at the foul line. The Hawks held a 43-33 rebounding edge and scored 20 second-chance points.
Covenant will host Averett on Saturday in a USA South clash. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. at Barnes PE Center.
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