Verbal fireworks threatened to erupt in the form of boos, whistles and claps from the packed bleachers, divided between Union students and a liberal sprinkling of royal blue T-shirts, with every call the referees made. One team was battling to stay on top—the other was fighting for a chance at the quarter semifinals.
University of Alabama Huntsville walked into Fred Delay Gymnasium as the No. 1 team in the NCAA DII, secure in the GSC regular season crown. For the Bulldogs, who have been fighting for a spot in the top-four seed, this game represented a chance to rise in ranks and, potentially, a victory over the team that knocked them off each of the nine meetings in the series history.
As Union players in red and white jerseys moved around, genially slapping hands with Alabama Huntsville players dressed in royal blue uniforms, the basketball court looked like a billowing American flag. United we stand. But as soon as the referee threw the ball into the air, the tension exploded like a gunshot.
“We knew from the last game they were always going to fight,” said Roy Bullock, who plays guard for Union. “They’re a really good team, and we just made a conscious effort to keep fighting and finish out the game.”
The Bulldogs opened strong, leading 23-9 in the first seven minutes. A three-pointer from Bullock just over halfway through the first half brought the score to 34-18. The Chargers fought back, scoring 11 points within three minutes.
Both teams restarted with a new energy, and the half ended with Union maintaining the lead, 44-34. In the second half, the Chargers came as close six points of Union, but the Bulldog defense held them off.
“We went over their main offense that they run and we just wanted to make sure to take away what they do best,” Bullock said.
In the final minute, Union also scored 7-8 free throws, securing a 92-84 victory and clinching a three-way tie for third seed with Delta State and North Alabama.
Union’s next game will be Feb. 25 against Christian Brothers University at 8 p.m. According to Bullock, the team is looking forward to “playing good defense, making shots when we can and hopefully finishing up the season the way we should.”