VALDOSTA, Ga. (Valdosta State Athletics) — The No. 22 Blazers came away with a win against Auburn Montgomery Friday by a final score of 91-87.
Today's win gives Blazer head coach Mike Helfer his 500th career win over the span of his 24 years of coaching. Currently, Helfer holds a record of 314-145 at the helm of the Blazers in his 16th year. Prior to Valdosta State, Helfer held the reigns of Southern Polytechnic from '97-'05, posting an overall record of 186-83. Helfer hit the 300-win mark as the Blazers head coach last season with an 80-66 win over West Florida on Feb. 27, 2020. He is the second all-time winningest coach in VSU men's basketball history behind James Dominey, who coached from 1971-2000 with a record of 436-243.
VSU (11-4, 11-4 Gulf South Conference) saw Guardian Bank Player of the Game Cam Hamilton take off, leading the team with 26 points, going 10 for 20 (.500) from the field with five three pointers and six rebounds. Senior Burke Putnam was second in the scoring column, dropping 20 points to go with his seven rebounds. Redshirt sophomore Jakari Gallon secured his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Warhawks (2-7, 2-7 GSC) were led by 19 points from senior forward Maharrith Jackson who shot four for 13 from the field (.308) with nine rebounds. The Warhawks finished with five players in the double digits for points while shooting 83% from the free throw line.
Hamilton was able to put the Blazers on the board first, sinking a deep ball to get things rolling. Both teams were in a scoring drought for the next two minutes before Maurice Gordon slammed it home. The Warhawks answered with a three and the Blazers kept up with a layup. VSU maintained the lead for a quarter of the half until a mid-range jumper put the Warhawks ahead by two. The Warhawks continued on its 13-0 run where redshirt freshman Jeremy Golson was able to put a halt to the run with a long three. The Blazers were able to cut into the lead more and more off of points in the paint where it eventually tied the ball game up at 27 a piece with 3:44 to go. The Warhawks were able to get a few quick buckets as the Blazers managed to make it a one-point game three separate times as the clock was winding down in the half. Jacolbey Owens sank a three to end scoring for both teams with a little over :45 left to play to put the Blazers down only 37-36 heading into the locker room.
The Warhawks outshot the Blazers in the first half, going 16 for 37 from the field (.432) where the Blazers shot 14 for 38 (.368). Valdosta State struggled from beyond the arch, shooting just four for 18 (.222) where AUM shot 40%, making four shots from deep. The Warhawks had the slight edge on the boards, coming off the glass with 23 rebounds, just one more than the Blazers. Neither team saw a plethora of points come from its bench, with AUM totaling eight and VSU just five.
The Blazers were able to regain the lead right from the locker room off a pair of free throws before the Warhawks regained its lead with a free throw and a layup, but Putnam came right back with a three to give the Blazers the lead. The game saw four lead changes over the next three minutes, that was until Putnam laid one in to give the Blazers the lead which it wouldn't give up for the remainder of the game. The Warhawks kept it close throughout the game but found itself down 13 with 7:12 left to play after a dunk by Owens. The Warhawks came battling back, finding itself on a run but Hamilton hit another shot from beyond the arch to put the lead back to 10. With less than a minute left, the Blazers led by ten, but AUM was able to sneak its way into making it a two-point game with :18 left to play after a three pointer and a pair of free throws. Putnam was able to put the game to rest, making four clutch free throws in the final seconds of the game to give the Blazers the 91-87 win.
The Blazers took control of the game but were outshot by the Warhawks who went 33 for 67 (.493) from the field while sinking six threes, while the Blazers shot 32 for 79 (.405), outshooting AUM from deep with its 11 three balls. The Blazers saw the charity stripe 22 times and made 16 baskets (.727) and finished with an advantage on the boards, coming down with 44 opposed to the Warhawks 41. VSU saw just 10 of its points come off the bench along with 42 coming inside the paint.
VSU is back in action tomorrow, Feb. 13, to finish its series against Auburn Montgomery at 2 p.m. Fans can access links to live stats, audio/video streaming, ticket information and more at vstateblazers.com on the men's basketball schedule page.