CARROLLTON, Ga. – In Valdosta State’s third consecutive close game, the Lady Blazers squeaked out a victory, 45-44, despite a more than nine minute scoring drought in the second half. The win pushes VSU to 19-6 and 9-4 in the Gulf South Conference. West Georgia drops to 9-15 and 4-9 in the conference.
Sczeny Hartry led Valdosta State with 13 points, playing the entire game. Both Brittany Ferguson and Courtney Mitchell scored 10 points while Mitchell doubled up with 11 rebounds. Ferguson contributed seven boards. Meanwhile, Brittney Nelson played the role of playmaker with five assists to go with five points and nine boards. Maylisa Johnson and Kourtnee Williams each gave out three assists.
The Lady Blazers would suffer a six-minute scoreless drought to start the game, then did not score a single field goal in the last 9:38 of the game. Mitchell scored VSU’s only four points in that stretch on free throws. It proved to be enough for the one-point victory.
Valdosta State started slow against West Georgia in The Coliseum, after the six minute scoreless stretch. Finally, Ferguson found Johnson for a lay-up and VSU’s first points of the game to break a 9-0 opening run for the Wolves.
West Georgia scored another basket on the ensuing possession, but Valdosta State answered with a three-pointer from Hartry, the GSC leader in three balls. The Lady Blazers would only make up three points on West Georgia’s opening 9-0 run throughout the half, trailing 30-24 at the break.
Ferguson and Mitchell led VSU in the half with six points apiece while Hartry and Nelson, coming off the bench, each had five points with a made three-pointer for both players.
Valdosta State wasn’t able to put a run together to close the gap in the first half, and Head Coach Kiley Hill found himself with even more problems at the break. Both Ferguson and Johnson, two of VSU’s heaviest contributors, were in foul trouble with three fouls each.
In fact, VSU committed 10 first half fouls to just six for West Georgia. The Wolves shot nine free throws in the first frame while no Lady Blazer stepped to the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes of the game.
After two baskets from Ferguson and one from Johnson to start the second half, Hartry buried a three-pointer from the right corner to give Valdosta State its first lead of the game, 33-32, just three minutes into the second frame.
West Georgia came back to regain the lead on free throws, but Williams, in the game early in the second half due to Johnson’s foul trouble, made another three-pointer for VSU. As the Wolves tried to answer, Williams stole the ball and found Hartry streaking for a third consecutive Lady Blazer three-pointer to grab a 39-34 lead and all the momentum in the game.
The Lady Blazers were on an 8-0 run and had held West Georgia without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes until Shunice Hardy scored a falling lay-up. Krystal Delph followed it with a three-pointer to pull the Wolves within one, 41-40, with 7:59 left to play.
Neither team would score until Mitchell dropped in two free throws for a three-point lead, 43-40, with 4:46 left in the game. With 2:28 left, Delph pulled the Wolves within one after she rebounded a Hardy free throw and scored on the lay-up.
Under a minute left, West Georgia turned the ball over to VSU. The Lady Blazers would have the ball coming out of a timeout with 41.6 seconds left in the midst of a scoring drought that had only seen two VSU points since the 9:38 mark and those two points came on Mitchell’s free throws.
Out of the timeout, Valdosta State could not score and there was a scrum for the loose ball rebound. As both teams wrestled for possession, Hill called a timeout for VSU to retain possession with 14 seconds left.
Forced to foul, West Georgia fouled Mitchell, who promptly made both free throws on a one-and-one opportunity for a three-point VSU lead, 45-42 with 12.2 seconds left.
The three-point lead proved to be exactly what VSU needed as Delph drove for a lay-up, but the clock expired after VSU inbounded the ball.
Valdosta State will face West Florida in the final regular season game in Pensacola, Fla., at 3 p.m. Saturday.