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March 10, 2013

On to the title game

Blazers upset Alabama-Huntsville in GSC semifinals, 76-68

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Josh Sparks scored 27 points and had 11 rebounds to lead Valdosta State to a 76-68 victory over No. 6 Alabama-Huntsville in the semifinals of the Gulf South Conference Tournament at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University Saturday evening.

With the win, VSU improved to 19-9 on the season, and advances to the GSC championship game for the fourth time in school history.

Valdosta State will play Christian Brothers in Sunday’s championship game. The game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. Eastern tip-off, and will be aired on all of the GSC TV outlets, including Mediacom, CSS and ESPN3.

Sparks made six of his eight field goal attempts and 15 of 17 free throws to lead all scorers. He added three offensive rebounds and eight on the defensive end for his second double-double in as many days. He also dished out two assists and had a steal, although he finished the game without a blocked shot, marking the first time this season he did not record a block in a game.

Alabama-Huntsville raced out to an early lead, building a 16-8 advantage five minutes into the contest. The Chargers made seven of their first 10 field goal attempts while building their lead, which culminated with a Jaime Smith three-point play with 15:33 to play in the first half.

Valdosta State fought back over the ensuing five minutes, as it scored 12 of the game’s next 14 points. David Murray sparked the run, as he wrapped two three-pointers around a Xavier Baldwin score for UAH and a Sparks basket for eight quick VSU points. Shaquille Harris evened the score at 18-18 with a lay-up off a steal, while Murray put VSU in front with a jumper and Alan Love closed out the run with a lay-up.

The remainder of the first half featured four ties and two lead changes. Neither team led by more than six points in the final 10 minutes of the half. Sparks broke the final tie of the half with two free throws and Patrick Diop added a pair of baskets to give VSU a 39-33 halftime lead.

Baskets by James Anacreon and Sparks pushed the Blazers’ lead to 10 points early in the      second half, but Smith hit two three-pointers to pull Alabama-Huntsville to within four points.

Alabama-Huntsville got its deficit to two points on two different occasions over the next seven minutes, and eventually evened the contest at 52-52 on a Wayne Dedrick three-pointer with 8:57 to play, but Murray answered with a three-pointer of his own to put Valdosta State back in front.

VSU quickly rebuilt its lead, as Sparks and Murray made three-point plays on each of the next two Valdosta State trips down the floor. Alabama-Huntsville got no closer than three points the rest of the way, as the Blazers made seven of nine free throws in the final two minutes.

Murray scored 19 points for Valdosta State, while Harris added 11. The Blazers shot 50 percent from the floor, as they made 25 of 50 shots, and owned a 21-8 advantage in scoring from the free throw line. VSU also owned a 39-23 advantage in rebounding in the game.

Smith and Dedrick each scored 19 points to lead Alabama-Huntsville, while Campbell added 15. The Chargers made 25 of 56 shots to shoot 44.6 percent from the floor.


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