VALDOSTA, Ga. — The Valdosta State women's basketball team posted an 80-72 victory over visiting West Georgia Saturday afternoon in front of a season-high 2,082 fans. Four VSU starters were in double figures led by a game-high 20 points from junior Kayla Bonilla.
On Reader Appreciation Day, where over 1,300 elementary school students came to the doubleheader and on "Play for Kay" Day, the Lady Blazers exacted some revenge on their rivals with the win. VSU shot 37.7 percent for the game on 26 of 69, while going 6 of 18 from range and 22 of 30 from the line. Bonilla was 5 of 13 from the field with one triple and 9 of 10 from the line, along with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Junior Delaney Bernard had 18 points with four treys and nine rebounds, narrowly missing her first double-double as a Lady Blazer, while senior Cheray Saunders and junior Germany Abrams each had 11 points.
The victory broke a tie with West Georgia as both teams entered 7-6 in league play as the Lady Blazers significantly cut down on the miscues in this game with just 13 turnovers compared to the 28 in the first meeting between the two teams. In addition, the the 22 of 29 from the line Saturday was a vast improvement from the 13 of 25 from the charity stripe in the first meeting.
The Lady Blazers moved to 16-6 overall and 8-6 in league play, sitting sixth in the standings, one game ahead of West Georgia, who fell to 14-8 and 7-7 in conference play.
UWG shot 41 percent for the game on 25 of 61, while draining ten triples and went 12 of 19 from the line. Rebounding was a big part of this game, especially on the offensive end as VSU held a 23-10 lead in offensive rebounds and 52-34 in total rebounds. The Wolves had three players in double figures, led by 18 points from Ashley Lee, while Edley Drawhorn added 14 points and Tahya Campbell chipped in 15 points off the bench.
The "Play for Kay Day," spearheaded by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), is named in honor of legendary North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow, wo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She passed away on January 24, 2009, after facing her third bout with the disease.
The Kay Yow Fund, in partnership with the WBCA, at The V Foundation, is a charitable organization committed to being part of finding an answer in the fight against women's cancers through raising money for scientific research, assisting the underserved and unifying people for a common cause. The Lady Blazers have partnered with Southern OB/GYN, provided 100 pink t-shirts for fans at the game to help promote the initiative. Donations can be made to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund online at www.kayyow.com.
VSU raced out to a 7-0 lead early, but the Wolves responded and pulled within 12-11 on a trey from Campbell with 4:22 left in the first. Later, she hit another trey to tie the game at 17 with 1:59 left and Saunders hit one free throw with 11 seconds left for an 18-17 VSU advantage through one frame.
Early in the second, UWG's Kylah Mize buried a triple for the first and only lead of the game for the Wolves at 21-20. Bernard answered at the other end putting VSU up again as it used a 7-0 run for a 27-21 score with 6:26 left in the half. Bernard then hit another trey for a 35-25 score with 3:40 left in the half.
VSU settled for the 39-31 lead at intermission. Bernard had 14 points in the first half on four triples and two free throws, while Bonilla was held in check to just four points. No UWG player was in double figures in the first half.
The Wolves pulled within three on two occasions through the first part of the third quarter, but a bucket from Bonilla, triple from sophomore Kayla Frey and another bucket from Bonilla pushed the lead back to ten at 51-41 with 4:44 left in the quarter.
Campbell was big for the Wolves as she helped keep the visitors striking distance and pulled UWG within 53-51 with 2:16 left in the frame. Once again, VSU had the answer – this time Saunders scored on the ensuing possession, beginning a 6-0 run for a 59-51 lead. Mize buried a triple near the buzzer for a 59-54 VSU lead through three frames.
In the fourth, UWG hung around, but VSU stretched the lead to a game-high 11 points on a layup from senior Nari Garner with 3:03 left as VSU went on for the 80-72 win. The victory snapped a three-game skid against UWG.
The Lady Blazers return to the road at Mississippi College and Delta State next week, before returning home for the final two home games of the regular season home games of the year against Montevallo (Feb. 20) and West Alabama (Feb. 22).