By Adam MacDonald
The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — Tyrone Curnell said he’s never been part of a basketball game where the student body rushed the court. He can now cross that off of his list of things to experience.
The P.E. Complex turned into a madhouse Saturday afternoon, as the Valdosta State Blazers took down the nation’s No. 1 team for the first time in school history. The Blazers knocked off the previously-unbeaten Augusta State Jaguars 81-75 in front of the third-largest crowd in school history (2,636), prompting students to rush the floor in celebration of one VSU’s biggest wins.
“That was crazy,” Curnell said. “I told Tristan (Crawford) earlier that when we beat them, everyone’s going to rush the court and I’m going to be in the middle. That was great.”
Curnell scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds, newly-signed guard Kevin Harris sparked the Blazers with 18 points off the bench and Ricardo Lewis took over late in the game to help VSU pull off the upset in one of the most anticipated games ever played in the P.E. Complex.
“I’m just happy for our kids that we came out and played so well in front of a great crowd,” Blazers head coach Mike Helfer said. “We were fortunate to win the game, and our kids got that experience. That’s what I’m most happy about.”
The Blazers (16-2) and the Jaguars (14-1) played exactly how people thought the No. 11 team and No. 1 team should play. With the Blazers up 68-67 with 4:45 remaining, it was Lewis who provided the game’s decisive run. The senior point guard, who had been quiet all game, went on a 7-0 run by himself to lift the Blazers. He made a layup, then he drove through the lane, made another layup and drew a foul. The next time down the court, he drained a long jumper with 2:35 left and the Blazers led 75-67.
“I was thinking about being aggressive,” Lewis said. “Coach Helfer told me I had to be aggressive. Kevin and Tyrone carried us the whole way, and being a senior, it was time to step up.”
Augusta State cut VSU’s lead to 76-73 with 1:10 left, but Curnell made a nifty move to the basket and made a layup to put VSU back up by five with 43 seconds left. Lewis made 3 of 4 free throws in the last 23 seconds to put the Blazers up by six. The Jaguars heaved up a desperation 3 in the waning seconds that was no good. The Blazers tossed the rebound out to Lewis, time expired and the celebration was on, as the Blazers and their fans met in jubilation at midcourt.
“I think the crowd tonight was amazing,” Helfer said. “Thank you to everyone who came and supported us. The crowd was our sixth man tonight.”
While it was Lewis and Curnell who came through in the clutch, the Blazers got a huge lift in the early and middle parts of the game from Harris. The junior transferred into VSU from Northwest Mississippi Junior College over the winter break, and didn’t take long to make an impact. He hit a couple of step-back jumpers in the first half and scored 10 straight points for the Blazers early in the second half. His quickness with the ball had fans on their feet, as he put some ankle-breaking moves on the Jaguars. It was only his fourth game in a VSU uniform, and second home game.
“I was waiting on my opportunity and (Helfer) called me early,” Harris said. “I went in and made things work for us.”
At one point in the second half, Harris hit a long 3 to make him 6 of 7 from the floor for the game. As he ran back down the court, he pointed to his mom and family, who were cheering from the front row. He’s a native of Douglas, and played his high school ball at Coffee.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Harris said. “Through it all, my mom has been there behind me. That’s basically what I wanted to show her when I gave her that point. I wanted to show her how much I appreciate everything she did. I give a big up to my fans.”
With help from Charles Belton, the Blazers were able to hold Ben Madgen, the Jaguars’ All-American, to 18 points, his season average. Madgen had a chance from 3-point range late in the second half to get his team within a point, but he missed, and swung his fist in frustration.
Fred Brathwaite had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Jaguars.
Lewis finished with 13 points, and Crawford added nine points for the Blazers. VSU shot 55.4 percent and got 28 points from its bench, compared to just seven points from the Jaguars’ bench.
Curnell led the Blazers early, scoring VSU’s first six points and settling the game down. He scored at least 20 points for the third game in a row. The magnitude of the game was not lost on VSU’s All-American. He anxiously paced around the P.E. Complex during the second half of the women’s game, and led an emotional huddle in pre-game introductions.
“I didn’t get no sleep last night, like I told y’all I would, and I was so anxious all day. I was like, ‘I got to have a good game,’” Curnell said. “I focused, and came out and did what I do best.”
Curnell said the Blazers will enjoy this win, but they’ll put it behind them in time for their next game, which is at home on Thursday against West Alabama.
Curnell, Harris, Lewis lead VSU past Augusta State, 81-75
By Adam MacDonald
- Local Sports
Blazers take 1-0 series lead
Angela O’Connor launched a pinch-hit two-run home run over the left-field fence, tying the game against Alabama-Huntsville in the bottom of the sixth inning, and sparking the Blazers and their fans along the way.
Blazer baseball stays alive, beats Stillman
Valdosta State scored five runs in the first inning to defeat Stillman 6-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at UT Baseball Field Friday morning.
Lowndes’ Harwell, Wortham sign with Valdosta State
Lowndes’ Ty Harwell and David Wortham won’t have to go far to play college baseball.
Blazers host respected rival UAH in Super Regional
One would expect a matchup featuring two of the top softball programs in Division II to come in the national championship game.
Unfortunately for Valdosta State and Alabama-Huntsville, who have combined to appear in four straight national championship games, they won’t be meeting in title game on Memorial Day in Salem, Va.
Pop Warner Football coming to Valdosta
Pop Warner Football is coming to Valdosta.
The nationally known organization that puts an emphasis on education and developing American youth has been established in the Valdosta area and will begin playing football this August.
Blazers lose to Delta State, fall to loser’s bracket
If the Valdosta State baseball team is going to win the South Region Tournament, the Blazers going to have to do it from the loser’s bracket.
The Blazers (33-17) dropped their first game of the tournament Thursday, falling to Delta State 4-2 at UT Baseball Stadium.
VSU will face Stillman College, which lost to No. 1 seed and tournament host Tampa Thursday, Friday at 11 a.m. to advance to the weekend portion of the tournament. The loser will be eliminated.
Lowndes’ Willis, Breit named Region 1 Coaches of the Year
The All-Region 1-AAAAAA soccer teams were announced Wednesday and Lowndes was well represented.
Lowndes coaches Chris Willis (girls) and Jordan Breit (boys) were named the Region Coaches of the Year, after leading the Lowndes teams to region championships and going undefeated in region play.
Vikings commit 4 errors, fall to Roswell, 5-2
The small things matter in baseball, especially in a winner-take-all game three.
On Wednesday, Lowndes’ baseball team made too many mistakes on the little things. The Vikings committed four errors that led to five Roswell runs and were eliminated in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a 5-2 loss to the Hornets.
Vikings, Hornets split
For the first time this postseason, Lowndes’ baseball team will have to play a decisive game three in order to advance to the next round of the state playoffs.
After splitting with Roswell Tuesday, the Vikings will host the Hornets in game three of the state quarterfinals series today at Noel George Field. First pitch of the winner-take-all game is set for 4:30 p.m. and Lowndes will be the home team after winning the coin toss following Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Former Lady Blazer Ferguson hired to lead Vikettes
The sign above the door still has Shan Garner’s name on it. There is even a Shan Garner plaque sitting on one of the shelves in the corner of the gymnasium office.
That will soon change, though, as Lowndes has hired its newest girls’ basketball coach.
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