The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta State women’s basketball team’s four-game winning streak ended Saturday night, as the Lady Blazers lost a back-and-forth contest to West Alabama, 73-66.
In a game that featured 10 ties and 12 lead changes, West Alabama grabbed its final lead with 3 1/2 minutes remaining, added some cushion with an 8-0 run, and never looked back to secure the win over the Lady Blazers.
“We know what we are made of now,” Valdosta State coach Kiley Hill said. “We know we can win games and can get better. We are still playing well. That team right there (West Alabama) is very talented.”
After playing to an even tie in the first half, the Lady Blazers built a 42-39 lead with 13:41 remaining. Then, they went ice-cold and didn’t make a field goal for over 6 1/2 minutes. During such time, West Alabama went on a 12-3 run — VSU got three free throws — to build a 51-45 lead.
The cold streak finally ended for Valdosta State when sophomore Kourtnee Williams drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring the score to 51-48. She followed it up with a 3-point play on the following possession, getting fouled on a layup. On UWA’s next possession, Williams forced the steal and dished it to Kamyia Smith, who made the layup to give VSU a 53-51 lead.
After a Lady Tiger traveling call, Brittney Nelson added a field goal to give VSU a 55-51 lead.
West Alabama recovered, outscoring the Lady Blazers 6-1 to grab the 57-56 lead, the final lead change of the night.
“We had good intensity, good focus, our defense was good and we had gotten some good boards, attacked the rim real well, but we just didn’t maintain,” Hill said. “We made too many mental errors down the stretch, and they knocked down free throws and we didn’t.”
The Lady Blazers had chances to close the gap, but as Hill alluded to, they couldn’t convert from the free throw line. With the Lady Tigers leading 57-56, VSU missed four straight free throws — two by Smith and two by Ashley Johnson — allowing the Lady Tigers to continue to add to their lead, which got to as many as eight, 64-56, with 53 seconds remaining.
VSU managed to close within three, coming off a quick five-point swing with a Brooke Satterfield three and a Courtney Sprague steal and score. But the Lady Blazers never got any closer.
VSU’s struggle from the free throw line in the closing minutes was verified by a struggling effort most of the night. The Lady Blazers finished just 17 of 26 from the line and just 22 of 57 from the field.
“That is the name of the game,” Hill said. “Free throws are the separation point. Free throws and offensive boards are the separation point.”
Williams led Valdosta State with 20 points, while Smith added 14 and Nelson contributed with 10. West Alabama’s Brittany Weathers finished with a game-high 26 points, while Nikkia Jordan finished with 25.
“We didn’t do some things very good defensively,” Hill said. “We lost too many people in transition and half-court movement.”
The Lady Blazers struggled to find a stroke early, starting 0 for 6, before finding a rhythm and converting 9 of their next 11 field goal attempts. With the hot shooting, the Lady Blazers were able to build a 21-11 lead.
West Alabama came back, using a 13-2 run across the next 4:43 to take a 24-23 lead, holding the Lady Blazers without a field goal on five attempts.
Williams ended the drought for the Lady Blazers, who swapped the lead with West Alabama on consecutive possessions before West Alabama evened the score at 28-28 on its final possession of the half.
After catching fire, the Lady Blazers missed 10 of their next 11 field goals, which allowed West Alabama the ability to come back into the ball game.
“If you look at the games we’ve won recently, we went from one extreme and now we are on another extreme,” Hill said. “There is not much in the middle and that is a bi-product of fatigue and us being young.”
Saturday night’s game served as the annual Pink Out game, where the Lady Blazers wore pink uniforms and money was raised to help fight breast cancer.
“This is about neighbors helping neighbors,” Hill said. “I just want to say thank you to everyone that helped us out and raised money for the cancer fund.”