Lady Blazers fall in South semifinals to Nova Southeastern

Mar. 17—VALDOSTA — The dream season for the Valdosta State Lady Blazers ended Saturday night in the NCAA Division II South Regional.

VSU, entering with a school record 30 victories and 27-game win streak, fell to Nova Southeastern's Lady Sharks, 69-58 at The Complex.

Nova Southeastern (25-5) will play Tampa in the South final Monday night at VSU. Tampa (30-6) won a 69-68 overtime victory over Eckerd (20-12) in the other semifinal, courtesy of a single Audrey Ramsey free throw with 2.4 seconds remaining.

Valdosta State led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter, but momentum was already turning against them. Up 14-5 on a Taylor Searcey triple at 3:35, the Lady Blazers were quiet the rest of the period.

Alana Ellis drilled a 3-pointer at 8:48 for Nova to go ahead 16-14. The run, at this point was 11 straight for the visitors, kept going, reaching 18 consecutive points on an Ellis jumper. Valdosta State went 1-of-14 from the field in the second period.

Searcey broke VSU's nine-minute silence with a jump shot at 4:12, but Nicole Scales and Ellis went back-to-back from behind the arc to extend their advantage to 29-16.

Though the Lady Blazers would not score again from the field for the rest of the half, they stopped the bleeding. Nova Southeastern did not score for final 2:35 and Aleisha Curry and Kalifa Ford made three free throws to pull to 29-19 at the break.

Emma Martin connected 45 seconds into the third period and Valdosta State began finding the range again.

Victoria Ikenasio put back an offensive rebound and when Martin hit a three, the Lady Blazers were back in it at 29-26.

Scales scored Nova's first points of the second half at 6:58. Searcey came back with a jumper, but the game resembled keep-away for VSU. Ellis and Morgan Kane scored five straight for a 36-28 score. Valdosta State would make a mini-run to keep within striking distance, but the pattern kept repeating.

Martin closed them 39-36, then Ikenasio did the same with a 41-38 score near the end of the frame. Zeyno Seren threw up a 3-point shot at the buzzer and it found the net, allowing the guests to be up 44-38 heading into the final 10 minutes.

Aubrey Stupp opened the fourth with points in the paint and VSU was in another hole, 46-38.

Ford drove the lane for two and Ikenasio hit consecutive shots, the latter a spin move off an offensive rebound. A Nova Southeastern shot clock violation further buoyed VSU and at 7:58, it was down to a two-point game at 46-44.

As they did all night, the Lady Sharks had an answer.

Stupp and Kane went 3-of-4 at the free throw line to go up five. Martin was fouled on a shot beyond the arc, but only could hit one of her three attempts at 5:59.

Now working mostly inside, Kane had four points in a 6-0 Nova run and VSU was down 10, 55-45, with 4:20 to go.

Searcey exploited holes in the Lady Sharks' defense to drive the paint, but all VSU could do was keep up. Kane and Stupp were there time and time again in the paint.

With a minute to go, the Lady Blazers were down eight points and needed to foul to try to regain possession. Nova Southeastern was 8-of-10 at the stripe down the stretch, foiling that plan.

Searcey led VSU with 15 points on the night. Martin scored 13 and Ikenasio netted 10.

Inside and outside shot equally well for the Lady Sharks, with Ellis and Scales both with 16 points, Kane at 11 and Stupp at 8.

Nova Southeastern was red hot from everywhere all night, finishing 25-of-48 from the field for 52% shooting, 8-of-15 on 3-pointers. They were 11-of-16 at the free throw line.

VSU was 24-of-56 shooting (43%). Minus the nightmare second quarter, the Lady Blazers were 23-of-42 from the field. They were 4-of-14 from three and 6-of-9 at the line.