It was college basketball at its best.
Third-ranked Alabama-Huntsville used a 3-pointer from Xavier Baldwin with two seconds remaining to beat Valdosta State, 79-77, in dramatic fashion at the VSU P.E. Complex.
Baldwin’s 3-pointer answered a potential game-winning field goal by VSU’s Josh Sparks with 13.4 seconds remaining, which sent the smaller than normal but jubilant VSU crowd into a giant uproar.
Following Sparks’ field goal, the Chargers pushed the ball up the court and found Baldwin in the corner for the game-winning field goal, which quickly silenced the VSU faithful.
“I thought both teams played really hard and I thought both teams made a lot of plays,” Valdosta State head coach Mike Helfer said. “They just made one more.”
Valdosta State had its chances to put the Chargers away in the second half, but blew leads of 15 and 7 points.
After building a 15-point lead by using an 11-0 run midway through the second quarter, led by Patrick Diop, who drilled a field goal and a 3-pointer to begin the run, and capped off by an alley-oop from James Anacreon to Sparks.
Then, UAH put together a 16-0 run that took just 2:06 off the clock, connecting on four three-pointers to grab a 58-57 lead, only to see the Blazers re-extend their lead to seven, 69-62, with around six minutes to play.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, the Chargers came back, using a quick 6-1 run to close within two points. From there, neither team led by more than five points, which came when the Blazers grabbed a 73-68 advantage.
“We played really well. They just made their run, which you knew they were going to make,” Helfer said. “We didn’t respond well during the run, but once it got tied back up, I thought our kids responded well.”
A large piece of the Chargers’ comeback success was because of the play from point guard Jamie Smith and the Blazers’ inability to connect from the free-throw line.
Smith led the Chargers with a game-high 28 points, connecting on four of his nine three-point field goal attempts, including two during their 16-0 run midway through the second half.
Valdosta State connected on just 11 of its 21 free throw attempts, including just 5 of 13 in the second half.
“That’s a spot where I wouldn’t say we lost the game, but we didn’t live up to expectations,” Helfer said.
Diop finished with a team-high 24 points for the Blazers, connecting on 5 of his 8 three-point field goals, while David Murray finished with 16 points. Josh Sparks finished with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Valdosta State came out on fire in the first half, connecting on 45 percent of their field goals and 50 percent (6 of 12) of their 3-pointers.
With their hot shooting, the Blazers overcame an early narrow deficit to go surging past the Chargers.
Led by Diop’s hot hand, the Blazers built a 10-point first-half lead on multiple occasions, including once when Alan Love stole the ball and finished with a slam-dunk.
Unfortunately for VSU, the Chargers came back, much like one would expect a third-ranked team would do. The Chargers used a pair of three-point field goals inside the waning minutes of the first half, followed by a quick field goal to reduce their 10-point deficit to four, 42-38, at the half.
Valdosta State returns to action Saturday against Shorter. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tip.
“In the game of basketball, the games come so quick,” Helfer said. “We play again in 42 hours so we have to make sure we bounce back. You have to turn the page so quick in this sport because the next team is going to be a good basketball team in the Gulf South.”
It was college basketball at its best.
- Local Sports
Prince Automotive donates new baseball equipment
Prince Automotive of Valdosta is supporting the Valdosta community through its partnership with the Valdosta/Lowndes County Recreation Department. The dealership has joined forces with the national Chevrolet Youth Baseball program to provide new equipment, instructional clinics, and a monetary donation.
Needmore holds final races before big Memorial Day weekend
Saturday night racing at Needmore Speedway saw some new faces in victory lane.
That wasn’t the case in the Late Model division, as Valdosta's Gene Ross drove to victory once again, but not without some close competition from Steven Roberts who came in second.
In the Limited Late Model class, it was another win for Cole Exum, with Gene Maine finishing second in the NAPA Auto Parts special.
VSU softball wins South Region, headed to nationals
For the third time in four years, and second in a row, Valdosta State’s softball team will play in the national championship tournament.
The Blazers won their third South Region championship Saturday, beating Alabama-Huntsville 8-3 in game three of the best-of-three series at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
VSU baseball season comes to an end
Delta State scored seven unanswered runs to defeat Valdosta State 7-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at the UT Baseball Field Saturday afternoon.
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.
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