Valdosta, GA - In Valdosta State’s conference opener, the Lady Blazers were upended by North Alabama, 49-44, to fall to 6-8 on the season and 0-1 in Gulf South Conference play. Thursday’s loss marks the first conference loss for VSU since an overtime loss at West Georgia on February 7, 2009, a stretch of 15 conference games.
North Alabama had to come from behind to win. The Lady Blazers had a 28-26 lead at halftime after building up an eight-point lead half way through the first half. Valdosta State led by as much as four in the second half.
Valdosta State showed positives with three players notching double figure points. Brittany Ferguson went for 12 points and 12 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Sczeny Hartry played a stellar game with 13 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals while Amanda Haven also turned in a good effort. Haven almost double-doubled with 11 points and nine rebounds. She added five steals.
Haven and Ferguson’s work on the boards led to a 37-27 advantage in rebounding for Valdosta State, but seven three-pointers from the Lions proved to be too much.
Still, Valdosta State outscored North Alabama in the paint (22-14), off turnovers (17-15), on second chance (13-2) and on the break (6-5). The Lions were able to beat Valdosta State in bench scoring with 24 points to VSU’s two. Courtnei Bowens came off the bench to score 14 for UNA.
Valdosta State jumped out to a 9-3 lead early and managed to maintain a four to six point advantage throughout much of the first half. Hartry, who streaked through the lane all night, went coast to coast off a steal at the 8:05 mark to give VSU an eight-point lead.
After a layup from Jessi Smith, Ferguson hit a jumper. Nichelle Filmore dropped a jumper, but Haven stole the ball later, pushed it ahead to Hartry who found Dominique Smith for a fast break basket.
Sanqueeta Meardith pulled UNA within six on two free throws before Hartry scored two more points on the break after another Haven steal to gain the eight-point advantage once again. But in the last five minutes of the half, North Alabama went on an eight-point run.
First, a three pointer from Sequoyah Cliff made it a five-point lead, and then Niala Harris dropped another long ball. Down two, Dana Jackson scored on a layup to tie it. Courtney Mitchell made two free throws with 1:30 left in the half for the two-point lead at the break.
Hartry scored another layup, but Harris hit another three-pointer followed by a layup by Jackson for a one-point UNA lead three minutes into the second half. Both teams jostled back and forth staying within a basket until Harris finally put North Alabama up by five points with just under a minute left to play.
Haven answered with a basket in the paint, and then Hartry dropped one of two free throws for a two-point game with 30 seconds left. North Alabama hit three free throws down the stretch, and VSU couldn’t answer.
Valdosta State will return to conference action at home Saturday at 6 p.m. against Alabama-Huntsville.