VALDOSTA -- Never since joining the Gulf South Conference in 1982 had the Valdosta State men's basketball Blazers claimed a title of any sort of conference title.

But as of last night, Valdosta State is the 2001-2002 Gulf South Conference East Division champions with a 70-50 victory over West Florida (15-11 overall, 8-6 in GSC East).

The win gives VSU a GSC East mark of 10-4. The Blazers are 20-6 overall, getting their first 20-win season since 1997.

"Every basketball team at the college level dreams of a 20-win season," VSU head coach Jim Yarbrough said.

The Blazers now begin play in the GSC tournament Thursday against the fourth-seeded team from the GSC West at a time to be determined.

"It feels so good to have coach Yarbrough here and in two years ... this is just an incredible feeling," VSU senior center Matt Jones said.

On night where VSU seniors Jones, Nick Gast and Marcus Williams were honored before the game, they'll be remembered even more by Blazer fans for their part in the win over the Argonauts.

Gast had 19 points and nine rebounds, Williams had 16 points and four 3-pointers while Jones grabbed six boards.

"The seniors weren't going to be denied. It really is a credit to those three guys," Yarbrough said. "You could tell that Matt was on the boards keeping balls alive. Nick was great around the basket, boxing out and keeping balls alive. And Williams really made huge shots again in another game."

Junior Jeremy Brooks had 15 points.

Valdosta State led 32-21 at the half and seized control of the game off the bat in the second half.

The Argonauts' shooting was ice-cold in the second half. In the first 7:30 they couldn't find the basket.

The Argonauts were held 16-of-49 from the field.

The Blazers scored and scored with ease to the tune of a 13-0 run where they openings where created for jump shots and layups that UWF was able to limit in the first half.

"They (UWF) were a team that was losing their confidence and we were a team that was gaining confidence and really getting after it defensively. Intensity stayed good," Yarbrough said.

The Argonauts tried to disrupt the Blazer offense by going to a full court press, but VSU handled it in stride.

West Florida finally got its first field goal with 12:02 left on a Matt Shemwell basket, but by then VSU held an unattainable 45-25 lead.

After a close game over the opening stages, the Blazers established control shortly after a John Prise free throw knotted the game at 8-8 with 13:09 to go in the first.

A 12-0 run over the next 5:10 to race to a 20-8 lead with 7:28 left in the half.

Baskets by Gast and Ernest Scott with Williams 3-pointer capped the run.

WEST FLORIDA 63, VSU WOMEN 59

The West Florida Lady Argonauts took the lead in the final minute to defeat Valdosta State, 63-59, in the season finale for both teams.

The Lady Blazers end their season 10-16 overall an 4-12 in the GSC East.

Amber Daniels led VSU with 18 points and nine rebounds while Courtney Parker finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

VSU was hurt by a 10-of-30 shooting performance in the second half.



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