The Valdosta Daily Times
Shorthanded and fighting injuries, the Valdosta State Lady Blazers withstood a second half surge from the Trinity Baptist Lady Eagles and secured a 64-51 season-opening victory Saturday night at the P.E. Complex.
“For our first game out, I thought we did some very good things, at times,” Valdosta State head coach Kiley Hill said. “I was pleased with our consistency of trying to do what we are asking them to do. We just didn’t get it done over and over again…We had good effort.”
The Lady Blazers secured the win despite playing with just eight players.
“We just simply didn’t consistently do the things that we practice,” Hill said. “And that is a by-product of what we had. If you look at the kids on the floor, the kids with experience that have played in our program before was (Brittney) Nelson and (Kourtnee) Williams and beyond that, because of our injury situation, nobody else had played major minutes.”
After leading by double digits early in the second half, VSU’s lead started to dwindle, eventually going from 14 points to three points with 7:07 remaining in front of the 749 fans that filed into the Complex throughout the night.
Then, needing someone to step up to make a play, the Lady Blazers found their playmaker in Brooke Satterfield.
The sophomore from Oconee County drained back-to-back 3-pointers to quickly re-extend the lead to seven, which was followed by a steal-and-score from Kourtnee Williams. Then, Satterfield nailed a jumper to put the Lady Blazers ahead by 11 (57-46).
“Brooke Satterfield stepped up and got some major buckets down the stretch,” Hill said, pleased with his sophomore’s performance. “She is a difference maker. She missed most of our preseason with Mono and then got back on the floor and has just been steady. She might say sometimes that she got her ‘mojo’ back.”
Following their run, the Lady Blazers managed to run off the final 3:30 from the clock by using four free throws from junior Kamyia Smith and a pair from Satterfield to ice the game.
Satterfield finished the game with 14 points — scoring 10 of the last 16 Lady Blazer points — while Smith led the Lady Blazers with 15 points on the night. Courtney Sprague and Dericka Griffis each added 10 points, although it was Griffis who accounted for 10 of VSU’s 12 points during an early stretch in the second half.
VSU finished the night shooting 39 percent from the floor (25 of 64) and just 27 percent from 3-point range. Trinity Baptist finished shooting 36 percent from the floor (21 of 58).
“We were doing a good job of playing inside-out and just finding the hot people and the open spots,” Satterfield said. “They were in a 3-2 zone and they were all inside, so we just tried to look for the open players.”
Defensively, the Lady Blazers were able to limit Trinity’s leading scorer, Nicole Collins, to nine points below her season average. Like she did on the offense end, Satterfield rose to the challenge to defend the opposition’s best player.
“We didn’t do some things in our rotation and left Brooke alone a couple of times,” Hill said. “And (Collins) got some offensive boards and some easy shots and then she hit some shots from deep, deep out that frankly we aren’t going to guard until she proves that she can consistently hit them.”
The Lady Blazers started slow, falling behind to the previously unbeaten Lady Eagles. Luckily for VSU, the early deficit never got larger than two points.
“We just couldn’t hit shots early,” Hill said. “If Nelson’s three right out of the gate goes down, I think everyone just relaxes and plays.”
After Trinity grabbed an 8-6 lead, the Lady Blazers started putting together some plays. Satterfield made a basket to tie the game, followed by a rebound and a score by Smith and a pair of jumpers by Sprague and Brittney Nelson, which put VSU in front 14-9 (Trinity Baptist managed a free throw during VSU’s run).
Smith led all first half scorers with 10 points, connecting on 5 of her 8 field goal attempts.
“She is going to do some big things for us this season,” Hill said. “She has a high-motor and she is a gamer.”
That would be the only lead the Lady Blazers would need, as they outscored the Lady Eagles 22-12 to close out the first half.
VSU visits Fort Valley State Thursday night at 7 p.m.