Southaven, Mississippi - Despite great play from Valdosta State’s Amanda Haven, Brittany Ferguson and Sczeny Hartry, Ouachita Baptist was too much for Valdosta State in the opening round of the Gulf South Conference Tournament Thursday. The Lady Blazers pulled within three points late, but OBU persevered for a 79-74 win to end VSU’s season at 14-13.
The Tigers opened with a three-pointer, but Ferguson and Hartry answered with three combined baskets to earn an eventual 6-5 lead. It would be the last VSU lead of the season.
Ouachita Baptist built a 16-point lead in the first half that would be too much for most teams to overcome, but Valdosta State fought back to within three points. The Tigers, however, made timely baskets and important free throws down the stretch to hold off the Lady Blazers.
In a game in which the VSU bench shortened up, three Lady Blazer starters put together strong games. Haven, Ferguson and Hartry combined for 117 minutes of play. Haven led the way in scoring, finishing with 22 points and five rebounds with an eight for nine performance from the charity stripe and six for eight from the field. Haven showed a wide array of scoring, from both outside and off the drive.
Ferguson, meanwhile, cleaned up the glass for seven rebounds on her way to 18 points, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Hartry, despite being guarded tightly by OBU’s Gabby Coleman all game, finished with 18 points as well. She also managed three rebounds, two steals and an assist in a full 40 minutes of play.
Shakeda Richie helped Ferguson crash the boards, finishing with seven rebounds as well to lead the team with Ferguson in Richie’s last game at VSU. The duo helped Valdosta State outrebound Ouachita Baptist, 36-28.
Rebounds were a premium because neither team missed much. The Tigers finished shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc while Valdosta State finished shooting 47.2 percent and 46.2 percent from long range.
The Valdosta State defense forced 14 turnovers on five steals and scored 16 points off those turnovers, but the VSU offense coughed the ball up 19 times, allowing for 26 OBU points off turnovers.
Despite the early troubles, the Lady Blazers never gave up. Down 27-11 with 11:52 to go in the first half, VSU answered with two Hartry three-pointers. Haven made two free throws, and the Lady Blazers had cut the 16-point deficit in half. Six minutes later, Ferguson made it just a four-point game on a free throw, 31-27. The Tigers took a seven-point lead into the break.
Valdosta State wasted no time eating up the OBU lead to start the second half. After the Tigers expanded the lead to 11 points, Haven buried a three-pointer. Then Ferguson hit a short jump shot to pull within six points. After a basket from OBU, Richie made a three-pointer and a free throw to pull within 48-44.
The Lady Blazers would not be that close again until 1:50 left to play. Haven drove across the lane and finished with a layup on the right side to make it 73-69. A’Laeshia Adams would make two free throws for OBU, but Haven scored on another layup and completed a three-point play. Coleman scored with a jumper in the lane, but Hartry answered with a runner from the right side to keep VSU within three points with just 34 seconds left. Ouachita Baptist made its final free throws to secure the win and advance in the tournament.