PENSACOLA, Fla. – Welcome to Valdosta State Ashley Johnson. Johnson has played in two games for the Lady Blazers, but her coming out party was Saturday as she dropped 20 points with seven rebounds on West Florida to lead Valdosta State past the Argonauts, 62-59. The Lady Blazers improve to 10-5 and 3-4 in Gulf South Conference play while UWF stays winless in the GSC and drops to 3-12 on the season.
Johnson poured in 12 points in the first half and was perfect from the charity stripe, making six throughout the game. She gave VSU balanced effort in both halves, but Valdosta State benefitted from a strong second half from Kourtnee Williams as well.
West Florida held Williams to just two first half points but she made three field goals and five of her six free throws in the second half to finish with 13 points. Seven of her points came in the last five minutes of the game. She added seven rebounds, six steals and four assists, including a steal in one of West Florida’s final possessions.
Brooke Satterfield and Jasmine Mapp added eight points each while Brittney Nelson brought down seven rebounds as well. Courtney Sprague provided a balanced effort, finishing with six points, five boards and four assists.
Valdosta State started quickly with a three-pointer from Sprague just a minute into the game. But after the Lady Blazers built a 9-5 lead, West Florida went on a 7-0 run for a 12-9 lead before the media timeout finally slowed momentum.
From there, Johnson started scoring to keep the Lady Blazers in the game. She started with two free throws then made a midrange jumper followed by a drive to the hoop for six consecutive VSU points. However, West Florida continued to score with Johnson for a 19-15 UWF lead with 11 minutes left to play in the opening frame.
Both teams traded baskets after that, but the Lady Blazers were able to tie it up after a Williams steal. She pushed the ball ahead and found Nelson in the corner for a three ball to tie it, 27-27, with just a minute to play in the half.
After a defensive stop, the Lady Blazers found Williams for a go ahead basket, her only one of the half, to put VSU up, 29-27, with just 22 seconds left in the half. Valdosta State earned another stop on the defensive end to secure the halftime lead.
Williams was able to find other ways to help the team in the first half with four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Meanwhile, Johnson picked up the first half scoring for VSU. Unfortunately for the Lady Blazers, Johnson picked up three fouls in the first 20 minutes as well.
While the Lady Blazers lost the first half battle of the boards, 24-19, VSU was able to force eight West Florida turnovers that turned into 11 Lady Blazer points in the opening frame. The Argos finished with 19 turnovers on 10 VSU steals and the Lady Blazers took advantage, scoring 28 points off turnovers and 11 on the break.
In the second half, Valdosta State would have to find a way to stop West Florida’s varied offense. Seven Argonauts scored in the first half while only five Lady Blazers found points, two of which were just two points each from Mapp and Williams. Johnson, Sprague and Nelson combined for 25 first half points.
Head Coach Kiley Hill chose to start Mapp in the second half, and the freshman provided a spark out of the break. She scored on two lay-ups after Williams scored the first basket of the half.
Both teams continued to play a close game, trading baskets back and forth. The largest lead throughout the first 13 minutes of the second half was only five and that by VSU just two minutes after the half. Johnson, Mapp and Williams were the only Lady Blazers to score during that time period.
With Valdosta State leading, 45-44, with less than seven minutes to play, Mapp continued to give VSU energy. She made a steal at the top of the key and drew a foul on the other end. She made both free throws for a three-point lead.
West Florida answered with consecutive three-pointers from Hanna Vette and Toynetta Johnson to gain a three-point advantage of their own, 50-47. Satterfield was able to tie the game again with a long ball, her first points of the game. Next, Williams scored three points the traditional way with a strong drive down the right side for a 53-50 Lady Blazer lead.
Raquel Miller was able to pull the Argos within one on free throws, but Satterfield buried another dagger from the top of the key to put VSU up, 56-52, with 4:05 left.
Timely rebounds and aggressive defense helped the Lady Blazers hold a 58-56 lead. West Florida would have one last shot with the ball, a fresh shot clock and 33 seconds left to play. Johnson took a jumper from the elbow for the Argos. West Florida was able to snag the rebound but Williams made the steal for VSU.
Williams, Nelson and Sattefield were able to take precious seconds off the clock by moving the ball around until the Argos finally fouled Williams with 9.5 seconds left. She made both free throws, as she has been able to do in the clutch all season, for a 60-56 lead.
West Florida’s Johnson was able to make an impressive three-pointer to pull within one with just over two seconds left. The Lady Blazers took care of the ball though and forced West Florida to foul Satterfield. She made both of her free throws to clinch the game and VSU’s first victory in three games.
Valdosta State finally returns home to host Christian Brothers at 6 p.m. Thursday in The Complex and Delta State at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in a nationally televised game.