BEREA -- The Eagles battled all the way down to the final seconds, but could not hold on to the lead in a heartbreaking 66-65 loss East Jessamine on Tuesday.
The Jaguars (11-5) had a three-point lead with 1:13 left to play, 62-59, when the Eagles got back in front thanks to two clutch three-pointers.
Hunter Buchanan tied the game up, 62-62, seconds later after knocking down a shot from deep.
Two free throws put East Jessamine ahead by two points again with 28 seconds left when sophomore Walt Smith drained a three-pointer from the left wing to put the Eagles back in front by one point, 65-64.
Southern (8-7) fought hard as the seconds ticked down, while the Jaguars scrambled to make a play.
East Jessamine answered with four seconds left on the clock when DeQuante Jackson fought toward the basket for a layup.
The Eagles had the ball, but could not get up a last-second shot.
Madison Southern coach Austin Newton said after the game the loss will be a good learning opportunity for his team.
"We haven't had a game come down to the wire like that this season. We had some overtime games, but nothing with a last-second shot. It's good for us. We have to practice these late game situations like this more - we just haven't experienced a game like this yet," Newton explained.
The Eagles had three players in double figures.
Chad Fugate led the Eagles with 21 points and was 4-of-6 from three-point range. The senior also had four rebounds and two assists. Nate Turner ended the game with a double double --16 points and 11 rebounds. Samuel Lee added 12 points.
Southern started strong -- racing out in the first quarter on a 9-0 run.
Lee sparked the run with a layup, then Fugate followed with a big three-pointer off an assist from Colby Sebastian. Lee added another layup and Nate Turner knocked down two free throws to cap the run and put the Eagles ahead 9-0 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles continued their hot shooting with three more three-pointers to take their largest lead of the night, 20-7.
Southern shot 57.1 percent (4-of-7) from three-point range in the first quarter as well as 50 percent from the field and were 4-of-4 from the charity stipe.
"We got off to a really good start thanks to our defense. We had them scoreless for the first four or five minutes of the game. Then somewhere along the way we left our defense and they took advantage," Newton said after the game.
In the second quarter, the Jaguars shooting warmed up after shooting just 36.4 percent in the first quarter.
As foul trouble started to plague the Eagle defense, East Jessamine's Ben McNew went on a scoring spurt.
Back-to-back three-pointers from McNew helped the Jaguars shave the Eagle lead to four points with 51 seconds left till halftime, 33-29.
"He's a great shooter and he got loose on us in the first half," Newton said of McNew. "We knew he would and we had to guard him and he was able to get some open looks and had a really good game."
The Eagles answered and pushed ahead once more to take a seven-point lead into the locker room.
A three-pointer from Turner and another three at the buzzer from Buchanan put Southern back on top 39-32 at halftime.
Lee gave the Eagles a double-digit lead with a three-pointer in the opening minute of the second half, 42-32, but it wouldn't last.
East Jessamine answered with a 6-0 run and then closed out the third quarter on an 8-0 run to get within two points, 51-49.
The teams battled in the fourth quarter for control.
A three-pointer from McNew gave East Jessamine its first lead of the night with five minutes to go, 55-53.
"The second half we didn't run our stuff as efficient as we did in the first half," Newton acknowledged. "East Jessamine had 17 second-chance points and got a lot of baskets from offensive rebounds. Later in the game, we couldn't find a way to get a stop and gave up too many offensive rebounds that led to buckets… We are an undersized team and we need someone to help (Nate) on the glass."
Hunter Buchanan ended the game with six points and six rebounds. Walt Smith had five points and three rebounds. Jonah Wooten had five points, two assists and two steals. Jayden Adams added three assists.
McNew lead all players with 23 points and added eight rebounds.
The Eagles shot 40.7 percent from the field, 44.8 percent from beyond the arc and 72.7 percent (8-of-11) from the free throw line.
Southern racked up nine steals for the game and won the turnover battle 17-12, but was out-rebounded by the Jaguars 38-26.
The Eagles will look to bounce back on Friday when they take on Garrard County at home.