VALDOSTA, Ga. – Valdosta State scored the first five points of the second overtime period and never looked back as the Blazers defeated Nova Southeastern 113-103 in double overtime in the final game of the Loop Pizza Grill Classic Saturday evening.
Valdosta State (7-2) missed its first two shots of the second overtime, but got offensive rebounds on each miss before Will Alston contributed a put-back basket for the lead. After a miss by NSU’s Max Papendieck, Tristan Steele drained a three for the Blazers for the five point VSU lead. Lukas Roesch hit a basket for Nova Southeastern (3-4), Kevin Harris scored on a fast break lay-up to push the VSU lead back to five.
Cody Dennison added two free throws for NSU, but Christian Hunter hit a three from the corner and Harris added two free throws while Hunter closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws.
Valdosta State opened the first overtime period with two free throws by Hunter to grab the lead, but Nova Southeastern responded with the next six points to take a 95-91 lead. Billy McShepard hit two more free throws for VSU and Kevin Harris added a jumper in the lane to even the game once again, only to have Roesch, who had scored four of the first six of the half, hit a three from the wing to put NSU up by three.
Nova Southeastern had a chance to seal the victory, but missed four of five free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one, while Kevin Harris hit a jumper in the lane and Sidney Harris scored his only points of the game with a lay-up with three seconds remaining to force the second overtime period.
Valdosta State led for most of the first half as it used an early 7-0 run to grab the lead. After John Brooks hit a three to give Nova Southeastern its only lead of the half with at 3-2, Steele put VSU back in front with a three 17 seconds late. Kevin Harris added a trifecta while a Steele lay-up on a fast break posted VSU to a 10-3 advantage.
Kevin Harris picked up his second foul shortly thereafter, forcing the Blazer’s leading scorer to the bench for the final 14 minutes of the first half, and the Sharks capitalized by closing to within a single point. However, Hunter hit a three and two free throws while Alston added a put-back to push the Blazer to its largest of the first half at 26-18 with 9:34 remaining.
With Kevin Harris on the bench, Nova Southeastern took advantage of Sidney Harris’ second foul, which forced the Valdosta State point guard to the bench, to once again make the game close. After the foul, Brooks hit a three and Alex Gynes added two free throws to move NSU to within one. McShepard pushed the Blazer lead back to three with a jumper in the lane, but Dennison responded with a three to even the game.
The Blazers responded with the next four points on baskets by McShepard and Paul Hagler, but Nova Southeastern scored the final four of the half to force a 35-35 tie at the half.
NSU hit eight of its first 11 shots of the second half to build a 54-48 advantage. Papendieck led the Shark charge as he hit all four of his field goal attempts while scoring 10 of the Nova Southeastern 19 points during the run. Rob Huntington and Alex Gynes added four apiece.
Valdosta State scored eight of the next 10 points to close to within two only to have the Sharks once again push their lead to eight points, at 67-59 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game, before Kevin Harris and Hunter put VSU back in front with nine quick points. Harris was fouled shooting a three and connected on all three free throws and then hit a three while Hunter gave the Blazers the lead with a three from the top of the key with 8:03 to go in the contest.
The lead changed hands five times over the ensuing three and a half minutes before Nova Southeastern scored four straight points to grab a 79-76 advantage. Kevin Harris answered with five straight points to even the game and the two teams again traded the lead for the final four minutes.
Kevin Harris eventually gave VSU a two-point lead with a three, his fifth of the second half, with 56 seconds remaining, but Gynes converted on a one-and-one to even the game at 89-89 with 26 seconds to go to force the overtime.
Kevin Harris led Valdsota State with 34 points, including 31 scored after the halftime intermission. Hunter added 26 while McShepard contributed 17, Steele and Hagler 11 each and Alston 10. Valdosta State shot 46.9 percent from the floor in the game, including 58.6 percent in the second half when it hit 17-of-29 shots. The Blazers also hit 15-of-43 threes, including 9-of-16 in the second half.
Gynes led Nova Southeastern with 30 points while Papendieck added 16, Roesch 15, including nine in the two overtime periods, and Huntington 14. The Sharks shot 57.4 percent from the floor in the game, but was successful on just 16-of-28 free throws while VSU connected on 22-of-26.
The Blazers take the next week off for final exams before returning to the court Tuesday, December 14 when they take to the road for the first time this year. Valdosta State travels to Cleveland, Miss. to play Delta State in a 9:00 p.m. Eastern tip-off.
For further information, visit: www.vstateblazers.com