VALDOSTA – The Valdosta State Blazers ended the 2007 calendar year with a victory, squeaking by Columbus State in the final seconds Monday afternoon, 84-82.

The Blazers (7-5) have now won their last two games.

“It was a hard-fought win, and really showed the character of these guys to come back like we did,” said VSU head coach Mike Helfer. “Hopefully we can now build off a tough win like that.”

The Blazers struggled early in the game, and with just over 17 minutes left to play in the second half, they trailed by 13 points, 50-37.

But after a three-point shot by Columbus guard Sean Miller gave the Cougars the 13-point lead, two VSU seniors took over in a big way.

Ricky Coleman and Devario Hudson combined to score 14 unanswered points, the last of which was a three-pointer from Hudson to give the Blazers the lead back, 51-50.

“It’s something we try to do every day, but we just came out of the gate at the same time tonight,” said Hudson.

The Cougars and Blazers continued to exchange the lead, as 17 more combined points from Coleman and Hudson helped keep the game knotted up. CSU guard Corris Portis hit four three-pointers in a four-minute span, and with 1:20 left to play the two teams were tied at 79-79.

“We came together and switched the defense to not allow so many three’s, and we got more patient on offense,” said Coleman. “Coach was calling the plays, and it felt like we were going to win after that.”

With 54 seconds left to play, Ray Cummings hit two free throws to give VSU an 81-79 lead, but the Cougars were running the floor looking to tie the game back up.

CSU forward Shondre Guest went up with a shot, but there was Hudson with a huge block that gave VSU the ball back.

Stephan Walton stepped to the line to shoot two free throws, and sank both. But Columbus drove the court and Portis hit a three with 33 seconds to play to make the score 83-82, VSU.

Helfer then worked the clock with coaching that saw two time-outs taken by VSU on the Columbus side of the court. After 20 seconds had run off the clock, Valdosta’s Anthony Passmore hit a free throw with 10 seconds left.

“I was just trying to prevent a five-second call or turnover,” said Helfer.

The Cougars had one more chance after a time-out was called on their side of the court. Guest took the inbound pass, went to the top of the key and, with his foot on the line, he took a shot with five seconds to play.

The ball went up, into the rim, rolled around twice, then fell out as the buzzer sounded, giving VSU their second win this week.

“I just said to help out on Portis, and Guest made a good move,” said Helfer. “That ball went so far into the rim I don’t know how it came back out.”

Valdosta State went into the first half down 36-32. The only bright spots in the first half were the play of Jamahl Stokes and Coleman. Stokes had a game-high 10 points at the half in only his fifth game back this year.

“It felt good to get a win, because we went through a lot,” said Hudson. “We’ve gone through a lot of changes in the roster, and it messed up our chemistry a little bit. But we went on the road and beat Fort Valley, and it’s good to win two in a row.”

For Columbus State, Portis had a team-high 25 points. Maurice Arnold had 15 points and Miguel Morton had 11 points.

For VSU, Coleman had a game-high 28 points. Hudson and Stokes had 16 points each and Stokes had a game-high three blocks.

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