HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Valdosta State men's basketball team saw their season come to an end in heartbreaking fashion after an 89-85 overtime loss to the Rollins Tars in the first round of the NCAA DII Men's South Regional Tournament on Saturday in Huntsville, Ala.
Valdosta State trailed by as many as 17 points late in the first half, but the resilient squad nearly doubled their offensive output in the second half with 49 points against Rollins' 37-point effort.
On the back of Damian Young, who came off the bench to score a team high 29 points in the game, the Blazers connected on 50 percent of their shots during the second half surge and took their first lead of the game when Young buried a three at the 9:45 mark in the second half.
The two teams proceeded to trade the lead eight times throughout the remainder of regulation, before Young scored his 19th point of the half on his second of two free throws to force a 77-77 tie with four seconds to play. After the clutch free throws, Rollins inbounded the ball from underneath the basket as the final seconds of regulation ticked away, and Beau Justice came up with a steal before firing up a leaning jumper for the potential game-winner. The shot fell just short, and overtime ensued.
Justice struck again early in the overtime period with a three-pointer just 18 seconds into the frame, and Young followed with a dunk just over one minute later to put VSU in front 82-77. Rollins would not be denied, however, as the Tars strung together an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to take an 85-82 lead.
Jeremiah Hill, who finished with 19 points in the game, connected for a three to tie the game up with just over one minute remaining, but the Blazers were held at bay the rest of the way while Rollins put up four additional points on a layup and a pair of free throws in the final minute.
Valdosta State's 26-win season fell just two shy of a program-high 28, and the team's 31 field goals in the game lifted them to a new single season mark of 1,024, which eclipsed the previous record of 1,006 recorded by the Blazers in 1978-79. In addition, VSU's 2,835 points scored on the year blistered the previous mark of 2,666 scored in 2009-10. Finally, the team finished with 293 three-pointers, 32 more than the program's previous record of 261 in 2006-07.
"We struggled today except for a stretch of about 10-11 minutes in the second half," stated Helfer after the game. "I wish we could have played a little better, but I still love this team. I'm proud of what they did this year, especially during the regular season, and our support this year was unbelievable. I'm really going to miss this team."
Saadiq Muhammad hit 5-of-6 from the field for 10 points in the game, while Josh Lemons added 10 as well. Both players were unable to contribute late in regulation after Lemons was forced to the bench late in the game due to an injury, and Muhammad picked up his fifth foul in the final minutes of regulation.
With the final loss, Valdosta State finished at 26-6 on the season, while Rollins advanced to face Delta State in the second round and improved to 22-10 overall on the year.