Valdosta Cairo

Tiffany Farrow/The Valdosta Daily Times Valdosta High's Zajeirria Godfrey (35) takes possession of the ball Tuesday night during the Wildcat's game against Cairo at the Lowndes High gymnasium. Godfrey scored 13 points for the Lady Wildcats.

VALDOSTA — After the Valdosta girls’ basketball team lost its first game of the season to Ware County 54-32 Monday, coach Julie McCutchens said her team needed to change its mentality.

During their second game of the Charles Cooper Memorial Invitational Tournament at Lowndes High, the Wildcats took the floor for their second game with things looking much the same.

However, the Wildcats turned the game around and picked up their first win of the season 38-35 against Cairo.

“We were tremendously better,” McCutchens said. “Our mentality was different. We came out to win.”

Throughout the first part of the game, it didn’t look like the Wildcats would win.

Valdosta sank the first basket of the game on a field goal by Marcia Hill, but that would be the Wildcats’ only basket for a while.

Thanks in part to its full court pressure on the Wildcats, Cairo scored eight unanswered baskets to take a commanding lead.

Valdosta would score just four points in the first quarter, as Cairo added one more for a 9-2 run for a 9-4 first-quarter lead.

After scoring four in the first, the Wildcats would get one better in the second quarter, putting five more points on the scoreboard.

However, those five points came during a 5-1 Wildcats run.

After Cairo scored two unanswered baskets, the Wildcats settled into the game and started to play better against the Syrupmakers’ press.

“I thought once we got in a rhythm, we handled it pretty well,” McCutchens said. “I thought our press did a really good job, too.”

With the Syrupmakers leading 13-4, Valdosta tallied four straight points and ended the half down 14-9.

The comeback came when Valdosta’s full-court press converted steals into baskets.

Much of Valdosta’s success off the press came during the end of the second quarter and throughout the second half.

“We tried to press most all of the game,” McCutchens said. “I thought we really made a difference then. I think that they were maybe tired and started to turn it over.

“Our pressure got more intense as the game went on, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Valdosta came out controlling the ball in the second half and took the momentum and the game away from the Syrupmakers.

The Wildcats opened the half with two straight baskets and a 6-2 run to start the third quarter.

Zajeirria Godfrey’s layup brought the Wildcats within two points behind the Syrupmakers’ 16-15.

With four minutes, seven seconds left in the third quarter, Brooke Baldwin put in a layup to give the Wildcats its first lead and keep them ahead for good 17-15.

Godfrey came in as a reserve and picked up several rebounds and steals along with 13 points to lead the Wildcats to the victory.

“She’s just a phenomenal athlete,” McCutchens said. “She actually came off the bench, didn’t start for us (Tuesday), and she came in and absolutely was the difference in the ball game.

“She did a great job.”

Another difference for Valdosta was the way it rebounded. The Wildcats hit the boards with more success than their previous game, and the result was fewer points for the opposition and more points for VHS.

“I think the biggest difference was we found some key players that stepped up and did some things, and we did a much better job on the boards,” McCutchens said. “That’s what hurt us (Monday) night. I think it was just a big bounce back.”

The Wildcats will need to continue improving as they finish the second annual Charles Cooper Memorial Basketball Tipoff Invitational against Lowndes at 7 p.m. today.

The Vikettes also won Tuesday, defeating Thomasville 51-30.

“We started off well with the defense leading the way,” Lowndes coach Shan Garner said. “We had a bunch of steals in the first half.”

The Vikings withstood Thomasville’s zone defense with the help of their senior leaders.

Seniors Taccara Bivins and Stephanie Sermons stepped up and helped lead the Vikings in scoring.

Bivins scored a team-high 14 points followed by junior Auburn Randolph with 12 and Sermons added eight.

“The game got a little crazy, and we had to slow it down a little bit,” Garner said. “The seniors took the leadership role and brought us where needed to be.”

The Vikings were ahead by 25 points at the start of the fourth quarter and played a lot of their younger players.

The Vikings and the rest of the field round up the Charles Cooper Memorial tournament today starting with Colquitt vs. Cairo at 4 p.m. followed by Ware County vs. Thomasville at 5:30 and concluding with Lowndes squaring off against Valdosta.

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