chris.depew@gaflnews.com



VALDOSTA -- When the Valdosta State Lady Blazers were in danger of falling asleep at the switch Friday night, Candice Ferrell stepped up her game.

The freshman scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half to lead VSU past Palm Beach Atlantic 64-51 on the opening day of the Shoney's Inn basketball Classic before 593 at The Complex.

After a draining overtime upset of North Alabama on Tuesday, Valdosta State (4-2) wanted to exploit its size advantage over the Sailfish and put the game out of reach early. But Palm Beach Atlantic weathered the early surge and cut the lead down to seven points after halftime.

Enter Ferrell, who went 7-for-8 from the field and 4-for-6 at the free throw line. It was the best performance she could remember having.

"Our offense was sloppy, so we had to pick (it) up," she said. "I wanted to score, and I felt like I could play defense and get rebounds."

It was the third straight game that Ferrell led the Lady Blazers in scoring. The 5-foot-11 did most of her damage with layups, while 6-foot-1 center Courtney Parker used her mid-range jumpers to soften Palm Beach Atlantic's 2-3 zone.

"Right now, a zone has been our Achilles heel," said VSU head coach Kiley Hill. "At times, we can really display ourselves really well and attack a zone, but again it's going to take time with this team."

Trailing 42-35 with 11:17 to play, Palm Beach Atlantic (5-3) blew an opportunity to cut into the lead when Kimmie Gant missed three straight free throws. VSU went on an 8-0 run -- including back-to-back Ferrell layups -- to ice the win.

"We knew we didn't play well tonight but ... we don't get points for style. We get points for victories," said Hill. "That was a very scrappy basketball team and they would not go away. We were trying to get a continuity and a rhythm, and we finally got one down the stretch there."

Danielle Hernandez finished with nine points and Monica Lee added eight more for the Lady Blazers. Melissa Miller had 14 to lead the Sailfish, while Gant -- the only senior in uniform for either team -- added 10 points and seven steals.

Valdosta State hosts Saint Leo today at 6 p.m. in the final game of the Shoney's Inn Classic. Palm Beach Atlantic meets Fort Valley State at 2 p.m.

Fort Valley State 78, Saint Leo 72

Maria Willis scored 19 points, including an 11-for-13 performance at the foul line, to keep the Lady Wildcats perfect at 4-0.

Sherika Tarpkins added 16 for Fort Valley State. Jackie Pugh scored 19 points, while September Harrison poured in 18 points and Ebony Winn finished with 16 for Saint Leo (2-5).



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