VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Valdosta State women's basketball team got a much-needed victory Thursday evening as it put up a season-high 59 points in the second half, en route to a 97-87 victory over Montevallo at The Complex.
The Lady Blazers (17-8, 9-8 GSC) had a team-high 23 points from senior Cheray Saunders, while junior Kayla Bonilla became the 27th Lady Blazer in program history to score 1,000 career points, finishing with 21 points in the game. Sophomore Abby Rouse added 14 points off the bench, while senior Nari Garner and junior Delaney Bernard each chipped in ten points.
For Montevallo, the Falcons were led by a game-high 27 points from Shyan Flack, while Kiya Sain added 21 points. Aaliyah Rice chipped in 12 and Marisa Snodgrass added 11 for four starters in double figures. VSU handed Montevallo its fifth-straight loss (16-9, 10-7 GSC).
Both teams opened the game on fire as they each scored 25 points in the first half, with both shooting better than 50 percent for the frame. The second quarter, however, was a different story as both teams cooled off and each scored 13 points for a 38-38 deadlock at halftime.
VSU raced out to an 18-8 start in the third quarter for a 56-46 lead capped with a layup from Bernard with 4:51 left in the quarter. VSU the stretched the lead to a game-high 12 points late in the frame, outscoring the Falcons 29-17 for the quarter and 67-55 lead through three frames.
In the fourth, Montevallo picked up the pressure and cut the deficit to four with a 12-5 run to start the quarter, but the Lady Blazers had the answer, pushing the lead back out to double digits with an "and one" from Bonilla for her 1,000thcareer point and an 84-73 lead with 4:13 to go. Bonilla is the fourth player to achieve 1,000 career points in three years as former Lady Blazer Madi Mitchell most recently scored 1,000 career points with 1,387 from 2015-2018 in 91 games. Bonilla has played in 86 games for her VSU career, marking the third-fewest games played to achieve 1,000 career points in program history.
The Falcons cut the deficit all the way back to three points capped with two charity tosses from Flack with 1:35 left at 86-83, but Saunders hit a bucket at the other end and buried two free throws for a 90-83 lead with 53 seconds left. VSU finished the last 1:35 of the game on an 11-4 run, while going 9 of 10 from the line.
For the game, VSU shot 52.6 percent on 30 of 57 from the field, while going 9 of 20 from beyond the arc and 28 of 32 from the line, marking the most free throws made in a game this season. The 97 points also tied the season-high set at Shorter (Jan. 18).
UM was 31 of 72 from the field for the game, while going 11 of 30 from range and 14 of 16 from the line. The Falcons were whistled for 24 fouls, while VSU committed 14 fouls in the game. Both teams had 16 turnovers and VSU recorded 13 steals in the game.
VSU kept its chances of hosting a quarterfinal round game of the 2020 Gulf South Conference Championship alive with the win on Thursday. VSU sits sixth in the league standings following Thursday's action a half game ahead of West Georgia in the standings and a game back of Montevallo. UWG came in at tenth in the first NCAA South Region Rankings, which were released Wednesday. VSU was not in the initial ranking.
The Lady Blazers return to action looking for the season-sweep of West Alabama on Senior Day on Saturday at 2 p.m. at The Complex. Prior to the game, the Lady Blazers will honor Saunders and Garner for Senior Day as it will be their last regular season home game in a Blazer uniform.