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West Alabama spoils Lady Blazers’ Senior Day, 76-67

Posted: 9:35 PM, Feb 22, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-22 21:35:02-05

VALDOSTA, Ga. — Visiting West Alabama outscored Valdosta State 44-30 in the second half and used a 17-4 spurt to begin the final two quarters, as the Lady Tigers posted a 76-67 victory over the Lady Blazers on Senior Day at The Complex. VSU sophomore Abby Rouse finished with a season-high 20 points, leading four VSU starters in double figures.

VSU fell to 17-9 overall and 9-9 in Gulf South Conference play as it fell into a tie for seventh in the league standings with West Georgia. Mississippi College is a half game back of VSU and UWG. Both UWG and VSU have two games remaining in the regular season, while MC has just one at West Alabama.

The Lady Blazers finish on the road at West Florida and at Auburn Montgomery next week. UWG closes at home against Shorter and Auburn Montgomery. The top eight teams in the final regular season standings qualify for the Gulf South Conference Championship, beginning on Mar. 3, with quarterfinal games played at campus sites. The winners then advance to Birmingham, Ala., for the semifinals and finals, Mar. 7-8 at the Pete Hanna Center.

West Alabama, who shot 56.3 percent in the third quarter en route to a 24-11 frame to start the second half, improved to 11-14 overall and 6-13 in league play. The Tigers had 27 points from Tazsa Garrett-Hammet and Bria Dent scored 22 points and pulled down 20 rebounds.

Prior to the game, VSU honored two seniors playing in their final regular season home game in a Lady Blazer uniform. Senior Cheray Saunders finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, while senior Nari Garner added ten points. Junior Kayla Bonilla had 15 points and eight rebounds, including 9 of 11 from the line.

The Lady Blazers struggled shooting on Saturday, going 19 of 60 from the field for 31.7 percent, while they were 5 of 25 from range, but were 24 of 28 from the line, including 15 of 17 in the second half from the charity stripe.

UWA shot 46.6 percent on 27 of 58 from the field and 9 of 19 from range, while going 13 of 19 from the line. The Tigers held a 43-35 lead in rebounding and led 15-4 in points off turnovers, a VSU had ten miscues in the game.

VSU opened the game in strong fashion and built a seven-point advantage at 15-8 with 3:40 left in the frame on a jumper from sophomore Kayla Frey. Saunders put VSU up double-digits at 24-13 with 19 seconds left in the quarter. VSU opened the game shooting 8 of 17 from the field for 47.1 percent, while going 3 of 9 from range and 5 of 7 from the line. UWA was just 5 of 13 from the field, but stayed close with three treys.

Bonilla buried a jumper with 5:35 left in the half for a 32-20 lead and the largest of the game by VSU, but the Tigers closed the half on a 12-5 run for a 37-32 Lady Blazer lead at the break. VSU went just 4 of 15 from the field in the second half, while UWA heated up to 7 of 15 for the second stanza. At the break, Garrett-Hammett had a game-high 14 points, while Saunders and Rouse each had nine for the Lady Blazers.

UWA opened the second half on a 17-4 spurt for a 49-41 lead with 4:05 left in the frame as Jada Golden capped the run with a trey. VSU closed within three at 51-48 with 1:40 left, but Dent scored the final five points of the frame for a 56-48 ledger with one quarter to play. VSU went ice cold in the third, going 2 of 11 from the field, but was 7 of 8 from the line.

In the fourth, UWA built the lead to as many as 15 points on a pair of tosses from Garrett-Hammett, but the Lady Blazers, backed by the announced crowd of 914, responded with a 14-1 run capped on a pair of Saunders free throws with 2:38 left, pulling VSU within 66-64.

With the crowd in a frenzy, Dent calmly scored a layup on the ensuing possession as UWA then stretched the lead to eight at 73-65 with 43 seconds left. Garrett-Hammett added two free throws late for a 76-67 score as the teams split the season series, each winning on the opponents' floor.