The Valdosta Daily Times
Kiley Hill was more pleased with his team’s effort Saturday than he was following Thursday night’s loss to Christian Brothers.
The Valdosta State head women’s basketball coach was still not pleased with the result of the game, though.
The Lady Blazers lost for the fourth time in the last five games, falling to the Delta State Lady Statesmen 52-48 Saturday afternoon in front of a national TV audience.
“I was very proud of our effort,” Hill said.
“We gave great effort tonight. I think they did what they had to do; they competed tonight with a purpose. We competed for a chance to have success and if you do that enough times you’ll find a way to change that scoreboard.”
After blasting his team’s effort and performance Thursday night, Hill saw the Lady Blazers play much better on Saturday, despite struggling from the floor.
Valdosta State connected on 18 of 54 field goal attempts and turned the ball over 19 times, which led to 16 points for Delta State, while the Lady Statesmen connected on just 16 of 52 attempts in a low scoring conference game Saturday afternoon.
“We have the ability to do some things very positively,” Hill said.
“The big thing that has taken place with such a young team that has battled so many injuries is lack of consistency. In order to win at a high-level, you have to be able to play with consistency. With the group we have, we haven’t just had it. Once we figure that out, there are still a lot of games left, you never know how the chips may fall.”
After leading throughout the entire first half and the early minutes of the second half, getting ahead by as many as six points, the Lady Blazers started to give way to the resilient Lady Statesmen, whose shooting struggles were magnified in the first half.
Delta State knotted the game even at 30-30 and again at 36-36, after Ashley Johnson put together a 5-0 run for the Lady Blazers and put them ahead by six.
With the game tied at 36-36, Brittney Nelson put the Lady Blazers back in front, only to see Delta State drain a 3-pointer on the following end to take its first lead of the day.
“We made some big mistakes late,” Hill said. “In the second half, we were up 36-30, and gave up an and-one, and another basket in transition. We didn’t do our job there. We had opportunities to seize and we didn’t seize them. It is a great learning point.”
After a Nelson layup, Delta State took the lead on a layup and free throw from freshman Chelsey Rhodes with 5:05 remaining. Delta State didn’t surrender the lead again.
The Lady Statesmen built a lead as large as four, but VSU’s deficit rarely got larger than a single possession.
Even with less than a minute remaining, the Lady Blazers were within a possession, as Jasmine Mapp, Kamyia Smith an Ivana Domljanovic sank free throws to bring the score within three.
Each time, though, the Lady Statesmen responded with free throws of their own to push the score back to four points.
The Lady Blazers started hot, looking as though they had something to prove. They connected on 3 of their first 4 field goals to take a 6-0 lead just over 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
Kourtnee Williams started the hot shooting with a layup, which was followed by a layup from Nelson on the following possession.
Then, Johnson connected hit a jumper to push the lead to 6-0.
From there, the Lady Blazers fell ice-cold. They missed their next 10 field goals over a 6 1/2 minute span. Luckily, Delta State couldn’t buy a basket. The Lady Statesmen started 0 for 7 from the floor, and didn’t connect on a field goal until the 12:19 mark.
“We take a 6-0 lead and had opportunity after opportunity,” Hill said.
“We did a great job with our hustle plays and our defensive positioning and our kids performed the game plan so well, defensively. We just couldn’t score. We had some great looks but they just didn’t fall. We should have takena 6-0 lead and turned it into a 16-0 lead. That would have given us an opportunity in the second half with more of a cushion.”
Chadisty Hickman converted a field goal 3-pointer for DSU’s first field goal.
Courtney Sprague finally ended VSU’s drought, connecting on a layup. Sprague’s field goal seemed to ignite the Lady Blazers, who then made five of their next seven field goal attempts to stretch their lead to nine, 19-10.
Delta State finally started to find a rhythm late in the first half.
After starting 2 of 18 from the floor, the Lady Statesmen made five of their last 10 field goals to end the half, cutting VSU’s nine-point lead to as little as four.
Nelson led Valdosta State with 13 points, while Sprague finished with 12. Delta State’s Rhandi Ball finished with a game-high 20 point. Hickman finished with 10.