Winter Park, FL - A day after dispatching third-seeded Fort Valley State, No. 6 Valdosta State did the same to second-seeded Florida Southern as the Lady Blazers defeated the Lady Mocs 67-63 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament at Ward Arena on the campus of Rollins College Saturday evening.
With the win, VSU improves to 22-7 and advances to Monday's South Region Championship game, where the Lady Blazers will meet the winner of Saturday night's contest between top-seed Rollins and No. 5 Delta State. Florida Southern ends its season at 24-7.
The Lady Blazers led throughout the first half as they scored on their first three shots to race out to a 6-2 lead. Florida Southern fought back, scoring the next five points to briefly grab a one-point advantage with 15:57 to go in the frame, but Sczeny Hartry hit a three on the next VSU possession to once again put VSU in front.
The two teams traded baskets for the next nine minutes before Valdosta State used a 7-0 run to break a 16-16 tie. Hartry opened the run with a three from the right corner before Kourtnee Williams scored on a fast break lay-up and Brittany Ferguson hit a jumper to give VSU a 23-16 advantage with 8:04 remaining in the half.
Florida Southern got no closer than three points the rest of the half as Valdosta State built a 33-27 halftime advantage.
After shooting 48.3 percent and holding the Lady Mocs to just 35.7 percent from the field in the first half, Valdosta State saw the roles reversed in the early going of the second half. FSC came out of the locker room and connected eight of their first 14 field goal attempts while limiting VSU to just 3-of-12 shooting during the first 10 minutes of the half. Florida Southern capitalized on the run as it used a Dzikas three-pointer at the 10:28 mark to grab a 46-43 advantage and force a VSU timeout.
The Lady Blazers responded as, out of the time out, VSU held the Lady Mocs scoreless for the next five minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Valdosta State connected on four of its next five field goal attempts and added a Ferguson free throw to build a 53-46 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
Florida Southern attempted one last comeback bid as, trailing by nine points with under three minutes to play, it forced three straight Valdosta State turnovers to close to within 61-57 with 49 seconds to play. However, VSU got a lay-up by Brittney Nelson and scored on four of six free throws to seal the victory.
Hartry led Valdosta State with 17 points while Nelson tallied her second double-double in as many days with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ferguson was the only other Lady Blazer to score in double figures, finishing with 11 to go along with seven rebounds.
VSU shot 47.2 percent from the floor in the game as it connected on 25-of-53 field goal attempts and also owned a 35-33 advantage in rebounding. The Lady Blazers also dished out 16 assists, led by seven by Maylisa Johnson.
Michaela Hawley scored a game-high 22 points to lead Florida Southern while Dzikas tallied 17 and Taylor Maldonado 10, including six in the final minute during Florida Southern's final charge. The Lady Mocs shot 24-of-56 from the field, 42.9 percent.