While it's no secret that the Lady Blazers have struggled mightily during the recent road stretch, Valdosta State ended that trend with a vengeance on Saturday afternoon with a well rounded performance and some outstanding shooting to overtake the Shorter Lady Hawks 71-59 at the Winthrop-King Centre in Rome, Ga..
The win put the hiatus on a three game losing streak for the Lady Blazers and gave the team their first Gulf South Conference win on the road this season and their first victory since a win over Alabama-Huntsville on January 6 at the Complex. Valdosta State improved to 9-5 overall and evened up the team's GSC record at 4-4. Shorter's record fell to 5-10 on the year and 3-6 in league play.
In the first half, the Lady Blazer defense came out hot and prevented Shorter from a single field goal attempt in the first five minutes of the game. The Lady Hawks bookended the period with scoring droughts that consisted of only one point in the first five minutes of the half and four points in the final eight minutes of the frame. Shorter was able to keep themselves in the game, however, with an offensive surge in the middle seven minutes that consisted of 20 points between the 14:41 and 8:30 marks.
Maggie Peeples played a large role off of the bench for the Lady Hawks, with 14 points overall and nine of the the squad's 25 first half points, but Valdosta State compensated by locking down on Karisma Boykin, Shorter's leading scorer on the season with and average of 13.4 points per game. Boykin was limited to only two field goals and eight points in the contest, three of which came from the free throw line.
April Thomas, the reigning GSC Player of the Week, gave the Lady Blazers a boost off of the bench, just as she has all season long. Thomas put up a team high 17 points on the afternoon and connected for 66.7 percent of her three point attempts in the game with 4-6 shooting from long range. Thomas has been deadly from beyond the arc this year and has buried 42.2 percent of her three ball attempts. The number places her at the top of the GSC and nearly eight percent higher than the second best long range shooter in the league when measuring by percentage.
Supplemental offensive support was provided by Reshaundra Owens and Kourtnee Williams who each scored 13 points in the game, and Jordan Waugh joined Williams at the top of the rebounding column, as the two pulled down six rebounds apiece.
As a team, the Lady Blazers obliterated their recent shooting woes with a 54 percent shooting performance from the field. The field goal percentage for the Lady Blazers on Saturday was the team's highest since their opening game against Trinity Baptist on opening night in early November, when the team shot 54.8 percent. In addition, VSU connected on nearly half of their three point attempts for a sizzling 44.4 percent shooting exhibition from long distance.
Although Shorter was able to tie the score up three different times in the first half, Valdosta State never trailed throughout the duration of the contest, and led by as many as 17 late in the second period.
The Lady Blazers make a long awaited return to The Complex on Thursday night to host No. 9 Delta State for Georgia Lottery Night, where several prizes will be given away throughout the night. Tip time is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. with the Blazers to follow immediately after.