HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The No. 25 Valdosta State men’s basketball team secured a position all alone at the top of the Gulf South Conference standings, following a thrilling 84-81 overtime victory over the No. 19 Alabama-Huntsville Chargers on Thursday night in Huntsville, Ala.
The win helped the Blazers secure hosting rights for a first round GSC quarterfinal playoff game on February 28th and represented a key regional victory, as UAH entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the South Region. Valdosta State improved to 21-4 overall and 16-3 in conference play following the win, while the Chargers fell to 19-6 overall and 15-4 against league opponents.
The Chargers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead during the first two minutes of the contest, before Jeremiah Hill buried a three ball to put the Blazers on the board at the 17:34 mark. The Chargers maintained their lead and increased their advantage to nine, at 21-12 at the 11:51 mark.
Valdosta State remained calm, however, and scored 15 unanswered points over the next four minutes to claim a 27-21 advantage. The Blazers held strong to that lead and extended it to 39-31 at the break, thanks to a strong offensive effort late in the first half that was fueled in large part by the long range shooting of Damian Young, who connected on three first half three pointers.
The Chargers came roaring back in the second half and tied the game up at 53-53 within the first seven minutes of the period. The two teams proceeded to trade buckets and force six different ties until VSU used a Saadiq Muhammad free throw to score a 64-63 lead at the 6:25 mark.
Hill followed with another three ball, one of three for the senior in the game, and Beau Justice promptly added a jumper to push the Blazers out in front 69-63. The Chargers would not be denied, however, and scored six quick points to tie the game right back up at 69-69 with 3:11 to play.
A Tanner Finlay dunk put the Chargers in front 30 seconds later, before Justin Simon hit a layup to tie it right back up at 71-71. In the final minute Troy Saxton put back a missed three point attempt by Seab Webster, and UAH held the lead until the final two seconds, when Justice hit a tough three to beat the buzzer and force overtime.
The overtime period featured six lead changes, the last of which occurred when Hill buried a layup to give the Blazers an 82-81 lead with 15 seconds remaining. Saadiq Muhammad came up with a steal during UAH’s final possession to help secure the win for the Blazers.
Young proved to be one of the top stories of the night and represented the leading scorer for the Blazers off the bench with a team-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and a 4-of-8 effort from beyond the arc. Simon bolstered the Blazers with 11 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, and Justice poured in 17 points.
The Blazers’ next matchup will take place in Florence, Ala. at 4:00 p.m., as Valdosta State closes out the final portion of its 2016-17 regular season travel schedule against North Alabama. Live coverage of the event can be found at www.vstateblazers.com.
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