For college basketball fans everywhere, this is when the madness begins. It is March. It is tournament time in the Gulf South Conference.
The Lady Blazers finished the season 14-12 and secured a No. 2 seed from the East. As a result, VSU will take on a very talented No. 3 seed from the West, 19-7 Ouachita Baptist.
Recently, the Lady Blazers had its top two scorers named to the GSC All-Conference teams. VSU’s workhorse, guard Sczeny Hartry, was named a first team All-Conference player. She was second in the conference in minutes played and finished the season averaging 11.3 points a game, while also dishing a team high 3.1 assists a game.
In addition to Hartry, forward Brittany Ferguson was named as a second team All-Conference performer in her first year with the Lady Blazers. She led the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game and was fifth in the conference in rebounding with 8.2 per contest.
The Lady Blazers finished the season off very strong, as they went 8-4 in their last 12 games. Coach Kiley Hill sees a direct correlation between his players’ individual accolades and the team’s success.
“I think it’s a good tribute to them,” Hill said. “Our focus since I’ve been here has been team success which relates to individual success and that’s just a byproduct of that.”
In order to keep up recent success, Hill and his squad will look to take each tournament game one at a time. In addition, they will try and keep the same pre-game rituals in hopes that they yield similar results.
“We basically have the same type of preparation we’ve done for the last month and a half. We try to prepare ourselves mentally. We video prep, as well as walking through stuff,” Hill said. “We’ve got to defend their strengths and make them play their weaknesses.”
The Lady Blazers must also focus on playing to their strengths. In games won by VSU this season, the Lady Blazers have averaged just over 26 points in the paint. If Coach Hill’s squad is going to continue their momentum through the tournament, then it will start by converting baskets around the basket.
“We’ve had success, that’s what has happened (got the ball inside),” Hill said. “Either off the bounce or off our post play, but we’ve been able to attack the paint which opens up the floor when we do knock down some perimeter shots.”
In addition to scoring in the paint, the Lady Blazers will have to shore up the other facets of the game to beat Ouachita Baptist and advance in tournament play.
“We have to be able to score in transition and we’ve got to be able to score inside. The third piece to that prong is that we have to rebound on both ends of the floor,” Hill said. “If we do those three things, then we’re going to put ourselves in a position to have success.”
Opponent: Ouachita Baptist Tigers
Record: 19-7 (10-4)
Key players: Jr A’Laeshia Adams (17.1 PPG), Sr Gabby Coleman (13.3 PPG)
Coach Hill’s key to the game: “Rebound and play possession by possession and not get lost in the atmosphere. That’s going to be the end result.”