Thanks to a second half surge the Valdosta State Lady Blazers made up a 15-point halftime deficit to stun the Lee women’s basketball team, 80-78 on Saturday afternoon from Walker Arena.
Sonya Franklin completed the improbable comeback when she weaved through traffic to lay in the game winner with just one second remaining. The Lady Flames had one final timeout to advance the ball to center court but Erin Walsh was unable to get a corner three off before time expired.
Valdosta State held the lead for just 36 seconds the entire contest. Lee carried a commanding 40-25 advantage into the intermission.
“I thought we got exposed for some lazy defense in the second half,” said head coach Marty Rowe after the game. “We certainly played well enough to win on the offensive end but when we needed to get stops and secure rebounds were just outhustled.”
Walsh led the Lady Flames with 28 points and canned four triples. The junior also had six rebounds and four assists. Shelby Brown added 10 points on a perfect 5 for 5 shooting from the floor to go along with nine rebounds. Despite foul trouble Carrie Cheeks had eight points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes of work.
The Lady Blazers were paced by 28 points and 13 rebounds from forward Madi Mitchell who finished 9 of 15 from the field and a perfect 8 of 8 from the charity stripe. Kenya Samone’ Dixon added 14 points on four triples and had eight rebounds while Franklin registered 12 of her own to complete a balanced scoring attack.
“They just outplayed us in the second half. Nothing they did surprised us, we defended with purpose and energy in the first half and held them to 25 points. Then in the second half we didn’t rotate, we got lazy and we didn’t play team defense,” said Rowe. “Unfortunately we have gone through these types of lulls all year where we go through stretches where we don’t defend as a group. We told our players Valdosta State is too talented and they have too many weapons for us to not defend as a team and with energy and determination. They made us pay for it and we have to improve moving forward.”
Lee held a slight edge on the glass (45-43) but struggled to secure offensive rebounds late in the contest as the Blazers grabbed 17 total with 12 coming in the second half.
After shooting just 22 percent from the field in the first half Valdosta State roared back thanks to a 51.3 percent shooting effort in the second half. Lee shot 43 percent for the contest and hit nine triples.
The two teams entered the contest tied atop the Gulf South Conference standings at 4-1. The loss drops the Lady Flames to 9-3 overall and 4-2 in league play while the win improves Valdosta State to 8-4 and 5-1.
Lee will look to get back on track on Monday evening as they host a West Florida club that is receiving votes in the latest NCAA D2 poll. Tip time is set for an early 4 p.m. due to the College Football Playoff Championship game.