March 4, 2006
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - Justin Hare scored 10 of his career-high 32 points in overtime to help Belmont earn its first ever NCAA tournament bid with a 74-69 victory over Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship on Saturday.
Hare also got a steal on Lipscomb's final possession and dribbled the ball several times as the clock ran down before he flung it high in the air at the buzzer.
Neither team had been to the NCAA tournament, but they were very familiar with each other as crosstown rivals in Nashville.
The reward of an NCAA bid only raised the stakes in the "Battle of the Boulevard" series that dates to 1953.
Lipscomb (21-10) and Belmont (20-10) tied for the regular season title, but Lipscomb earned the No. 1 seed by a tiebreaker. It was only fitting the championship game would go into overtime.
The game went into overtime after it was tied three times in the final 4:41.
The Bisons took a 58-55 lead when James Poindexter hit a 3 with 27.7 seconds to go, but Hare drove the lane for a layup and was fouled. He converted the three-point play, and it was tied at 58 with 20.7 left. Neither team could score again in regulation.
In overtime, the sophomore guard led the Bruins. Boomer Herndon scored Belmont's first basket, and Hare had another driving layup to put Belmont up 62-58 with four minutes left. The Bruins never trailed again.
Hare was named the tournament's most valuable player, and he hoisted the glass trophy after the game with his teammates.
Josh Goodwin and Brian Collins added 10 points apiece for Belmont.
Eddie Ard led Lipscomb with 19 points while Poindexter and LaKory Daniel each scored 13.
Belmont and Lipscomb had not met in a conference championship game since they played for the NAIA's Tennessee Collegiate Athletic Conference title, which the Bisons won.
Belmont moved to NCAA Division I in 1997, and Lipscomb moved up in 2000.
The teams were playing for the third time this season. Lipscomb won the first game 97-85 on Jan. 20, and Belmont won 81-65 on Jan. 31.
But the season's not over for Lipscomb. The Bisons are off to the NIT under new rules adopted for the tournament that allows all regular-season champions to get a bid.