Special to the Times
VALDOSTA -- Led by senior small forward John Prise, Valdosta State's men's basketball team did it again Friday night.
The Blazers (5-0) took control early and went on to defeat Tennessee Wesleyan 79-60 in the nightcap of the Park Avenue Bank Classic at The Complex.
Prise, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, played with his usual tenacity and spirit, spearheading the early run and encouraging his teammates to maintain the intensity
"The longer you play the more experience you get and you get better about picking what shots to take," said Prise.
Prise once again spurred the Blazers with a huge slam dunk off a steal at the 17:47 mark of the second half -- a bucket that proved to break the Bulldogs' collective back.
"We try to be the toughest defense in the nation, so after the steal I wanted to put a period on the whole game, and close any doubt that they were going to come back," Prise said.
The Blazer bench played formidably in the second half, led by sophomore guard Shannon James' 10 points and furious defense that disrupted the Bulldogs' half-court offense.
"We really dug into the players and put a lot of pressure on at half court -- that was the gameplan coming in, so I tried to establish that and do it to the best of my abilities," James said. "Before the game coach Yarbrough gave me probably the most inspirational speech of my life, and that motivated me throughout the game."
Blazer head coach Jim Yarbrough understands that while the calendar says December, it is not too early to prepare for March, when the Blazers must be hitting on all cylinders.
"In a tournament like this, you are learning early in the season some lessons that you will need for March," he said. "You will have to play back-to-back days and do back-to-back preparations. We felt that if we could come out and concentrate that we could control this game."
Tennessee Wesleyan fell to 5-4.
One of the more encouraging moments of the Blazers' blowout was the sight of injured senior point guard Jeremy Brooks walking without crutches. Brooks has been sidelined with a broken foot, but was cleared earlier this week to begin practicing.
Eckerd 89, Winston-Salem State 76
In the first game of the Park Avenue Bank Classic, the Eckerd College Tritons (6-0) defeated the Winston-Salem State University Rams (2-3).
Eckerd's junior center Cerwin Thompson drove the Triton scoring attack with a game-high 27 points, missing only once from the field. He added 11 rebounds in 35 minutes.
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