VALDOSTA, Ga. – Valdosta State had a Josh Sparks free throw with 0.5 seconds remaining in overtime go in and out as the Blazers fell 80-79 to Christian Brothers in Gulf South Conference action at The Complex Saturday evening.
With the win, Christian Brothers improves to 11-2 and 2-0 in GSC play while Valdosta State fell to 7-5 overall and 1-1 in league action.
Valdosta State scored the first point of the overtime period on a Sidney Harris free throw, but three-pointers from Tray Casey and Michael Drake, who also hit a jumper, gave Christian Brothers the lead for much of the overtime period. Will Alston got the Blazers to within a single point with a pair of free throws with 1:06 to play.
Neither team hit a bucket in the final minute, with Harry Green hitting a pair of free throws for CBU while Alston added two more for the Blazers with 11 seconds to go. Scott Dennis, an 80.6 percent free throw shooter, missed the first of two free throws, and Josh Sparks grabbed a rebound and was fouled. The junior connected on the first free throw, but had the second roll off the right side of the rim.
Christian Brothers led through much of the first half, a frame that featured just two fouls called, one on each team. The Bucs grabbed the lead four minutes into the contest with the aid of a 10-0 run. Zack Warner opened the run with a pair of baskets while Cory McArthy and Scott Dennis each hit a three to post CBU to a 15-6 advantage with 12:56 remaining in the half.
Valdosta State fought back over the ensuing seven minutes of play as its full court press caused havoc for Christian Brothers. The Blazers forced three turnovers during the span and forced the Bucs to rush shots in the final four seconds of the shot clock on two other occasions while putting together a 15-4 run to grab a 21-19 lead. Chris Rozier contributed a pair of jumpers during the run while Jacquan Nobles added a pair of three-pointers, the second of which gave VSU its two-point edge.
The lead traded hands on the next three possessions of the game before McArthy broke a 26-26 tie with a three-pointer from the top of the key to once again put Christian Brothers in front. Dennis tallied a steal and added a three from the corner with three seconds remaining in the half to give CBU a 32-26 halftime lead.
Christian Brothers quickly pushed its lead to double digits in the opening moments of the second half as it scored seven of the first nine points of the frame. Valdosta State closed to within six points twice over the ensuing five minutes, only to have the Bucs, behind the hot shooting hand of Dennis, stretch their lead once again.
Trailing by eight with 11 minutes to play, the Blazers closed to within a two points with an 8-2 run. Sidney Harris hit a jumper for the first two points before Tristan Steele grabbed a rebound and raced the length of the floor for a lay-up. He was fouled on the shot and converted on the free throw. After a pair of free throws by Zack Warner, Steele added a three from the right wing to pull VSU to within 52-50 with 9:34 to go in the game.
Valdosta State eventually got within a point, at 55-54, only to have Christian Brothers score five straight points to once again push its lead to six points. Steele answered with a three for VSU, but the Bucs pushed the run to 12-3 as they scored the next seven points to once again push their advantage to double digits, at 67-57 with 2:49 remaining in the contest.
The Blazers used a free throw and a pair of steals off their press to get back to within four points and came up with two more turnovers off the press in the final minute to close to within 69-67 with 34.1 seconds to go in the contest. After Tray Casey missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 29 seconds to go, Nobles grabbed the rebound to give VSU a final chance. Steele banked in a jumper in the lane with 7.5 seconds to go to tie the game and Harris knocked the ball away as Christian Brothers was setting up the final play to force the overtime.
Steele led Valdosta State with a game-high 28 points as he connected on 11-of-21 field goal attempts. Harris was the only other Blazer to score in double figures as he finished with 16, while Sparks tallied 10 rebounds and had three blocked shots.
The Blazers shot 30-of-64 from the floor and committed just 12 turnovers, only six of which came in the final 25 minutes of the game, while owning a 37-31 advantage in rebounding.
Dennis led five Bucs in scoring with 22 while Green tallied 13, Warner 12, McArthy 11 and Drake 10. CBU shot 50.8 percent from the floor as it connected on 30-of-59 field goals.
Valdosta State returns to action Thursday, January 12 when it travels to No. 13 Alabama-Huntsville for a Gulf South Conference contest. Tip-off is slated for 8:30 p.m. EST. Christian Brothers returns home to Memphis, Tenn. and hosts West Alabama at 7:00 p.m. CST.