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Blazers eye championship

Southaven, Miss- The VSU Blazers will enter the GSC tournament as the second seed from the East Division, despite tying for the division title. The Blazers were given the second seed after losing a deciding coin toss to Alabama-Huntsville, who ended the Blazers 15-game winning streak on Feb. 20.
As the second seed, the Blazers will play Arkansas-Monticello, the third seed from the Western division, on Friday afternoon at the Desoto Civic Center in Southaven, Ms.
“I am proud of our team up to this point,” Helfer said. “Fortunately you are judged by your postseason success, so we are going to try to take it one game at a time and hopefully have similar success in the postseason as we did in the regular season.”
Monticello enters the game with an overall record of 14-10 and a conference record of 9-5. The Boll Weevils are led by junior Jarrell Turner, who started all but one game for UAM. Turner enters the tournament as the leading scorer as he averages just less than 14 points per game, while also leading the team in rebounds with 7.5 per game.
“He is good and he is experienced and he has done some really good things for them,” Helfer said.
Nick Carey is the only other UAM player who averages double-figure scoring on the year, as Carey enters tournament play averaging 11 points per game.
UAM enters postseason play averaging 65 points per contest, while allowing just over 62 points per game. VSU enters GSC tournament play averaging 83.8 points per game, while allowing nearly 69 points per contest.
The Blazers enter the game with three players, Tyrone Curnell, Tristan Crawford and Ricardo Lewis, averaging double-figure scoring on the season, while Curnell also leads the team in boards with an average of 8.4 per game.
The game on Friday versus Arkansas-Monticello will be the second time senior guard Ryan Nelson will play against his old team. Nelson spent one season at Arkansas-Monticello before transferring to VSU to play for the Blazers.
With a first-round win, the Blazers would then move into the weekend portion of the tournament. A second round matchup would feature VSU playing either West Georgia, who the Blazers knocked off Saturday night 83-57, or Arkansas Tech, who was undefeated until this past Thursday, when Arkansas-Monticello ended their quest for a perfect season.
“I have been around basketball for a long time and I know that if you look ahead you’re likely to trip,” Helfer said. “Monticello is a very well coached basketball team and they’re obviously the only team to beat Tech, so we better make sure we lace them up tight for Monticello as we would for anybody else.”
If the Blazers manage to get by Arkansas-Monticello and make it past Arkansas-Tech on Saturday, the Blazers will be faced with three games in three days, the most games VSU has played consecutively this whole season.
“We have to make sure we get quality minutes out of our depth to keep our legs fresh,” Helfer said. “By time you get to that Sunday game you will have high energy and your emotions will be high, but again you have to have legs if you want to make it that far. But we can’t look past UAM; that is step number one.”
Follow the Blazers live from Southaven Mississippi with the most up to date blog in Valdosta at VSUspectator.com.

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