Valdosta Daily Times

January 26, 2013

Crosstown showdown

Valdosta, Lowndes basketball teams battle tonight

Christian Malone
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — For the second time this season, the basketball teams from Valdosta and Lowndes will clash on the hardwood tonight.

The crosstown rivals will meet at Lowndes’ gym today. The Lady Wildcats and the Vikettes will tip off at 6 p.m. The boys teams will play afterwards.

Whenever Valdosta and Lowndes meet, regardless of the sport, nearly anything is possible. And the coaches know that.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Lowndes boys coach Kingston Clark said earlier this month. “When we play (Valdosta), throw everything out the window.”

Valdosta’s boys team will be trying to maintain its lead atop the Region 1-6A standings, while the Vikings will be looking to earn a big region win.

The Wildcats enter the game 15-4 and ranked 10th in Class 6A. They sit on top of the Region 1-6A standings with an 8-0 region record. Valdosta has won eight games in a row since losing to Mitchell County on Jan. 4.

The day after that loss, the Wildcats’ winning streak started with an 85-44 pounding of Lowndes at the VHS gym. The game was relatively close for more than two quarters, but then Valdosta outscored its crosstown rivals 46-14 in the final quarter and a half, and turned a nine-point lead into a 41-point victory.

Valdosta then beat Colquitt County by 22 points (73-51) and Camden County by 36 points (74-38) in its next two games. Then came three much tougher contests. The Wildcats beat Brunswick by six (83-77), edged Coffee (74-73) and then beat Brunswick again, 75-70.

The Wildcats’ last two games, however, have been blowouts. Valdosta beat Camden by 19 points (85-66), then hammered Colquitt 83-46 on Tuesday.

“We’re getting rewarded for our hard work, winning some games. Right now, we’re in first place,” Valdosta head coach Antonio Haynes said after Tuesday’s game. “The goal is to keep working and try to get ready to win the region.”

Lowndes’ boys come into today’s game with an 11-8 record. The Vikings are 2-5 in region play.

Lowndes started the season 9-2, and at one point had an eight-game winning streak. But the Vikings have won just two of their last nine games (seven of which were region games), and are coming off of back-to-back losses to Brunswick and a one-point loss to Coffee (63-62) on Friday.

Nevertheless, Valdosta’s coach expects to get the Vikings’ best effort tonight.

“They’re going to be ready to go, so we’ve got to play better,” Haynes said. “They’re Lowndes. It’s a rivalry game. No matter what we did last time, they’ll come out and be ready to go. They’re well coached. So it should be a good game.”

Valdosta-Lowndes girls games are often close, hard-fought contests.

“This is my 21st meeting against (Valdosta), head-to-head, and (most of) these have been really close ball games, three or four points,” Lowndes girls coach Shan Garner said before the last Lowndes-Valdosta game.

In the teams’ only meeting this year, the Lady Wildcats led nearly from start to finish (Lowndes’ only lead was 2-0) and defeated the Vikettes 54-47. Valdosta grabbed the lead with an 11-0 run in the first quarter, and never relinquished it.

Valdosta standout Stormm Phillips, who was recognized that night for scoring her 1,000th point, led VHS with 20 points in that game. Lowndes’ Tashia Brown scored 25 points that night, but the rest of her team combined for just 22 points.

Valdosta’s girls are currently 16-3, and 6-2 in region play. After starting the season 16-1, the Lady Wildcats lost back-to-back games a week ago (falling 58-52 to Brunswick and 74-50 to Camden). On Tuesday, they led their game with Colquitt County for only 0.8 seconds, but those were the final 0.8 seconds of the game, after Shaneika Smith made three free throws to give the Lady Wildcats a 44-41 win.

Lowndes’ girls are currently 13-7. But the defending region champions, who graduated nearly every player off of last year’s team, are just 2-5 in their first seven region games, and have lost three games in a row. On Friday night, the Vikettes lost 39-37 to Coffee.

However, the Vikettes have played well at home, posting a 7-1 record. Their only loss came to Brunswick, a team that also won on Valdosta’s home court earlier this month.