In the final game of the 2013 calendar year for the Valdosta State women's basketball team, the Lady Blazers held on to a slim lead late in the contest to claim a 58-56 win at The Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Following a tough conference loss on Thursday against the Lady Flames of Lee, Valdosta State bounced back with a vengeance against the Fighting Knights, sparked by a season high 23 point outing off the bench by April Thomas.
The win improves the Lady Blazers to 6-2 overall on the season, and the loss was only the second of the season for the Fighting Knights, who now hold a record of 7-2.
The two squads swapped leads five times during the first five minutes of the contest, but the Lady Blazers took an 11-8 lead after Thomas buried her first of five three balls in the first half. The surge by the junior allowed Valdosta State to spread their lead to as much as 13 in the first half, and VSU held an eight point advantage at halftime.
In the second half, the Lady Blazers went cold for nearly five minutes, as they were unable to land a field goal from the 15:17 to the 10:47 mark, but Valdosta State weathered the storm by scoring two points off of free throws by Jordan Waugh and only giving up five points to the Fighting Knights during that span.
The Lady Blazers dominated the boards throughout the course of the contest with 46 rebounds against 38 collected by the Fighting Knights. Valdosta State's 16 offensive rebounds put the team in position for 10 points on put back shots, eight of which came in the first half. In contrast, Lynn pulled down 10 offensive rebounds on the afternoon.
Valdosta State enjoyed a solid performance in the paint to complement Thomas' shooting display from beyond the arc. The Lady Blazers connected for 28 points in the paint, with 16 of those points coming in the first half. Amy Duke and Reshaundra Owens scored 13 and six points, respectively, for the Lady Blazers, and much of the damage dealt by the pair came within close proximity to the hoop.
Late in the contest, Lynn's Sharneka McCatty drained two free throws from the line to cut VSU's lead to only one at 52-51, but on the ensuing possession, Duke made a strong move to the basket to hit a layup. Courtney Sprague also tacked on a free throw to push the Lady Blazer lead to four. McCatty answered with a three point play at the 0:16 mark to once again trim the lead to one, but two clutch free throws from Kamyia Smith followed by a steal by Duke allowed the Lady Blazers to seal up a tight victory.
Sunday's game was the final contest for the Lady Blazers before a short break for the holidays. Following the break, Valdosta State will begin a steady stretch of Gulf South Conference contests that begins with a matchup against conference rival West Alabama. The game is slated for a 6:00 start at The Complex on January 4.