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January 4, 2013

Williams’ basket carries Lady Blazers past UAH, 54-51

VSU earns its first GSC win of 2012-13 season

VALDOSTA — Much like she did against St. Leo earlier this season, sophomore guard Kourtnee Williams came up clutch for the Lady Blazers when they needed it the most.

Williams connected on a game-winning field goal with 20.2 seconds remaining to lift Valdosta State’s women’s basketball team to a 54-51 win over Gulf South Conference rival Alabama-Huntsville Thursday night inside the P.E. Complex.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes,” Williams said. “If it is going to take me to hit the clutch shot, I’ll take the clutch shot.”

Williams’ go-ahead basket was just the Lady Blazers’ third lead of the night, all of which came inside the final 11 minutes of the game. Following Williams’ basket, VSU forced a missed field goal by Alabama-Huntsville on the other end, sending senior Brittney Nelson to the free throw line.

Nelson converted the front end of a 1-and-1, making the score 54-51. Then, after back-to-back timeouts by UAH, Nelson intercepted the inbounds pass to secure the win.

“We were able to battle and battle and battle,” Valdosta State head coach Kiley Hill said. “Once we took the lead, there was a different demeanor with our kids. We couldn’t get over the hill and then we finally got over that hump, and it took the weight off our shoulders. We started to do things positively.”

The Lady Blazers secured their first conference win of the season (they entered the game with an 0-2 record in GSC play). More importantly, the Lady Blazers protected their home floor, something Hill stressed to his team prior to the game.

“This is our home floor; we have to protect it,” Williams said. “Nobody is going to come in here and win on our home floor. That is our motto the whole season.”

Williams finished with 13 points on the night, while freshman Courtney Sprague finished with a team-high 15 points.

The Lady Blazers connected on 45 percent of their field goal attempts in the win.

“I think we could have shot even higher,” Hill said. “We allowed contact to bother us, especially in the first half.”

With emotions running high in a highly contested first half, both coaches were seen arguing calls with the sideline referee about various calls. With less than 30 seconds remaining in the half, Hill was given a technical foul for arguing a call regarding a foul on Williams.

The Lady Blazers were able to use that emotion to close their deficit before the half, and carried it into the second half.

“I was upset at two things. I was upset at our kids. We weren’t doing what we needed to be doing and we were beating ourselves,” Hill said. “Then we battled back and got within three, and then there were some things that happened. I got a technical, and I thought we needed some of that emotion, and I was going to get that.”

Huntsville converted both free throw attempts off the technical foul and then added a free throw to grab a 27-21 lead. The Lady Blazers added a basket to close their halftime deficit to 27-23.

Neither team was overly impressive early in the first half, especially Valdosta State.

The Lady Blazers struggled shooting and committed five turnovers. They failed to convert a field goal until the 14:08 mark of the half. Alabama-Huntsville wasn’t much better, grabbing just a 6-0 lead prior to the Lady Blazers’ basket.

From there, the Lady Blazers closed within one point, but allowed UAH to get a lead as large as nine points before closing within four at the half.

“It says that we play to the end,” Williams said. “It isn’t how you start; it is about how you finish. We finish strong.”

Valdosta State hosts Shorter Saturday at 2 p.m. at the P.E. Complex in Valdosta.

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