MONTGOMERY, Al. — With its season on the line, the Valdosta State women's basketball team responded with a 68-53 victory Saturday afternoon at Auburn Montgomery to clinch the No. 8-seed in the upcoming Gulf South Conference Championship.
The Lady Blazers will head to Jackson, Tenn., for a GSC Quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Union on Tuesday evening. The winner of the game will advance to the GSC semifinals and finals at the Pete Hanna Center in Birmingham, Ala., Mar. 7-8. Information on the GSC Women's Basketball Championship can be found by clicking on the link to the right of this story.
Senior Cheray Saunders paced the Lady Blazers scoring 21 points on 7 of 12 from the field, while going 2 of 3 from range and 5 of 6 from the line. Junior Kayla Bonilla shook off a tough outing on Thursday with 16 points and eight rebounds in the must-win game Saturday, while sophomore Kayla Frey added 12 points off the bench.
VSU shot 39.1 percent for the game on 25 of 64, while draining 7 of 16 from range and went 11 of 14 from the line. VSU held a 15-6 lead in points off turnovers, forcing 16 miscues by the Warhawks. The Lady Blazers held AUM to just 19 of 58 from the field (32.8), while the Warhawks were 2 of 21 from range and 13 of 15 from the line. AUM was led by a game-high 23 points from Catlin Carter on 6 of 12 from the field and 11 of 13 from the line, while Morales added 10 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.
The Lady Blazers came out of the gates on fire, going 8 of 14 from the field in the first quarter, while draining 3 of 4 treys in the frame for a 21-17 lead. Senior Nari Garner buried a trey late in the frame for the 21-17 margin.
The second quarter was a complete change from the first as both teams were ice cold. VSU was 3 of 19 from the field and AUM was 3 of 17 as the teams scored a combined 17 points in the frame with VSU leading 29-26 at intermission.
An 11-2 run to start the second half gave VSU a 38-28 lead with 7:28 remaining in the frame. Freshman Kendall Bollmer buried a triple for a 45-33 lead with 3:57 left in the quarter and the larges lead of the game to that point. AUM's Jordan Brewster hit a jumper pulling AUM within 49-42 at the end of the quarter.
AUM pulled within six at 52-46 with 8:25 left, but an 11-0 run by the Lady Blazers put VSU up 61-46 with five minutes left. Junior Delaney Bernard hit a trey for a 68-50 lead with 2:46 left for the largest lead in the game. A field goal from Victoria Morales and a free throw from Catlin Carter ended the scoring for a 68-53 final. Neither team scored over the final 1:46 of the game.