BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Valdosta State's run to the Gulf South Conference men's basketball championship fell a three-pointer short as the Blazers fell 65-62 to Christian Brothers in the title game Sunday evening.
The two teams played even for the first five minutes of the contest before Christian Brothers used a 13-0 run to grab control of the game. With VSU up by three, tournament Most Outstanding Player Trey Casey hit a three pointer and added a lay-up to put the Bucs in front. Pat Graham followed with five points and Cory McArthy closed out the run with a three-pointer with 10:31 remaining in the first half to give Christian Brothers a 20-10 lead.
Valdosta State, which ended its season at 19-10, responded with the next six points, but got no closer as CBU quickly stretched its lead back to double digits and led by as much as 14 before settling for a 37-24 halftime lead.
After shooting just 35.5 percent from the field in the first half, Valdosta State found its range as the final 20 minutes of the game, during which it made 13 of its 26 shots. The Blazers got back into the game with a 9-0 run over a four minute span that closed them to within two points.
Alan Love started the run with a lay-up before Josh Sparks made two free throws and added a three-point play. After an offensive rebound by Love, Shaquille Harris scored a basket to pull VSU to within 43-41 with 11:54 remaining in the game.
The Christian Brothers lead stretched back to eight points over the ensuing minutes, but Valdosta State responded again to get to within two points, at 56-54, on a James Anacreon three-point play with just over five minutes to play.
The two teams traded baskets for the next four minutes before Valdosta State, which had committed just four fouls in the second half, was forced to foul as it trailed 63-60 in the final minute. CBU took advantage of the situation to run clock and eventually missed a shot with 20 seconds to go that was rebounded by Harris, who fed Patrick Diop for a lay-up that closed VSU to within a single point with 10 seconds to go.
After the Blazers' seventh foul of the half led to two free throws for the Bucs, Diop was fouled with three seconds remaining to prevent a potential tying shot, or so the Christian Brothers thought as. Diop missed both shots, but Sparks rebounded the second and found Harris, who saw a three-pointer at the buzzer fall just short.
Sparks tallied 15 points and 13 rebounds in the game for his third double-double in as many contests in the tournament. He joined Casey on the All-Tournament team, as did David Murray from the Blazers.
Harris joined Sparks with 15 points while Diop had 12 and Love 10. VSU shot 42.1 percent from the floor in the game as it made 24-of-57 shots and owned a 41-23 advantage in rebounding in the game.
Casey scored a game-high 19 points while Michael Drake added 12 and Graham and McArthy 11 each. Ryan Fleming also finished in double figures with 10 as CBU shot 46.3 percent from the floor.