The Valdosta Daily Times
The game of basketball is known for runs. On Thursday night, the Lady Blazers made one run more than West Georgia.
After a dominating first half, the Valdosta State women’s basketball team withstood several Lady Wolves’ charges in the second half to earn a fourth straight victory, winning 81-76.
Thursday’s 81 points marked a season-high for the Lady Blazers, and the most by the women’s basketball program since February 2011.
“Small things have made the difference and we have been fortunate over this last stretch to find a way,” Valdosta State coach Kiley Hill said. “It has been good for us, mentally. There was a stretch there where nothing was working for us and we were nonexistent. We kind of caught fire and we will see what happens.”
The timing to get hot is perfect for the Lady Blazers, who entered Thursday fifth in the Gulf South Conference standings.
“It is time to pick it up,” said sophomore Kourtnee Williams, who finished with a team-high 24 points. “It is getting down to the end. We have to pick it up, and we are getting there.”
After building a 14-point halftime lead, the Lady Blazers’ saw their lead get to as small as one point in the opening minutes of the second half, bringing back thoughts of when the Lady Blazers were outscored 40-16 in the second half at West Georgia earlier this season.
But, VSU pushed through it and used a commanding 15-2 run to rebuild a 14-point lead, 69-55.
“It was all about revenge,” Williams said. “When we went to West Georgia, we got out butts handed to us. We weren’t going to let that happen on our home floor.”
Like it had done to start the second half, West Georgia came fighting back. The Lady Wolves used an 18-11 run to close within five points. From there, the Lady Blazers swapped baskets with the Lady Wolves, building a lead back to eight to hold on and secure the win.
“That has been the mark of this basketball team: we didn’t blink,” said Hill, who admitted he has taken a less aggressive role on the sideline in recent weeks. “We can play really well and then we can be bad at times, but there is never any doubt that we can compete. We are going to find ways to get it done….I was probably doing too much coaching, so I am trying to do less.”
Five different Lady Blazers scored in double figures on the night, led Williams’ 24 points. The majority of Williams’ points came on the dribble-drive, something the Lady Blazers took advantage of all night; they scored 32 points in the paint against the Wolves defense.
Brooke Satterfield finished with 13 points, while Kamyia Smith and Courtney Sprague each finished with 12. Ashley Johnson contributed with 11, as the Lady Blazers shot an impressive 52 percent from the floor and 72 percent (24 of 33) from the free throw line.
“Our team effort right now has been tremendous,” Hill said. “Right now, we are having sharp depth and kids are doing what they have to do to get it done. It has been someone different for the last stretch. It is a positive.”
The Lady Blazers dominated the final 10 minutes of the first half to build their commanding halftime lead.
After starting just 3 of 13 from the floor in the opening part of the half, the Lady Blazers found their groove and never looked back. They made 10 of their next 13 field goal attempts, and took advantage from the free throw line by making 15 of 17 first-half attempts to grab a 46-32 lead at the half.
During the run, which saw the Lady Blazers outscore the Lady Wolves 33-16 to close the half, six different Lady Blazers scored from the floor.
Satterfield had the hot-hand early in the run, which started with VSU trailing 16-13. Satterfield scored eight of the first 14 points on the run, including a 3-pointer right in front of the West Georgia bench as the shot clock expired.
After Satterfield got hot, Williams put the run in her hands. She scored the next eight points for the Lady Blazers, pushing VSU’s lead to 35-22.
Brittney Nelson got into the action, scoring six of the next eight points. Smith, Sprague and Johnson also scored during the run to close out the half.
The Lady Blazers’ impressive first-half run was also aided by their defensive effort; they held West Georgia without a field goal for 5 1/2 minutes, forcing several turnovers that led to buckets on the other end.
The Lady Blazers ended the first half with 12 points off West Georgia turnovers and 17 points of turnovers in the game.