By Timothy Threadcraft
Special To The Herald
ALBANY --- The Albany State Golden Rams were surging as of late, but they couldn’t keep up the momentum Saturday night and lost a stunner in the 11th annual Peach Ball Classic Basketball Homecoming game against conference rival Fort Valley State, 60-52, mostly as a result of a stagnant offensive effort late in the second half.
At one point in the second half, the Golden Rams scored only seven points in seven minutes of play, allowing the Wildcats to run away with the lead and the game. After 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Brandon Davie, the Wildcats went on a 14-4 run, taking an eight-point lead at one point.
The Golden Rams fought back late, but FVSU’s Peyton Mullings drilled a three to put the Wildcats up 50-46 with 3:33 left in regulation, which proved to be the dagger. Davie intercepted an ill-advised pass on the next possession and went coast-to-coast for a breakaway dunk to slam the door shut on the Rams, who lost for just the second time in their last six games.
“We just didn’t concentrate tonight,’ ASU coach Chris Cameron said. “We gave up a lot of easy opportunities. We turned the ball over a little too much, but we just weren’t making shots. In the second half defensively, especially, we didn’t play like we usually do. That wasn’t characteristic of our team.”
Former Worth County star Jerome Hamilton led the Golden Rams with a double-double in a losing effort, putting up 24 points and 18 rebounds, while Jaren Harris had 16 points and five rebounds. Leroy Broner led the Wildcats with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Davie scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.
ASU WOMEN 74, FVSU 64: With the home team sporting their pink alternate for the special occasion, the state’s most heated conference rivalry between Albany State and Fort Valley State did not fail to disappoint Saturday night in the HPER gymnasium. In the first matchup of the evening, the Lady Rams and Wildcats traded punches back and forth all night; but the Lady Rams would eventually prevail in what turned out to be an extremely contentious matchup.
The largest lead of the first half came when ASU’s Danielle Colson nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to put the home team up 36-28 at the break.
Their hot streak was short-lived, however. The Lady Wildcats came out after intermission with a vengeance. After stalling ASU’s offense on consecutive possessions, Fort Valley’s Jayme Gilbert hit three straight 3-pointers at the peak of what was a 24-9 Fort Valley run to start the second half.
However, the Lady Rams would regain momentum with an inspired defensive effort, forcing turnovers that would lead to back-to-back 3-pointers by Colson and former Bainbridge star April Thomas, eventually fighting back to take a 13-point lead, a burst of momentum too sudden for the Lady Wildcats to overcome. After the game, ASU coach Robert Skinner spoke about his team’s consistency.
“Our dribble-penetration seemed to get going midway through the second half,” Skinner said. “Our ability to get to the basket showed up in the second half. The conversation every day in practice is consistency, showing up every day. Closing, finishing games, and giving 100 percent is what we talk about every practice. Our problem all year has been coming out flat in the first five minutes after taking a lead into the half. We had to realize we got away from our patterns, got away from our sets. After we got back in the groove, we were OK.”
Colson showed up in a major way, coming off the bench to lead the Lady Rams with 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Kourtney Alexander added 15 points and six rebounds, while Thomas had 14 points. Shytina Harley and Jayme Gilbert scored 18 and 16 respectively for the Lady Wildcats. Albany State won the turnover battle by a 30-19 margin, and notched 17 assists to Fort Valley’s eight.
“Danielle’s contribution tonight was huge,” Skinner said. “You expect that from your seniors. She took some of the burden off April and Kourtney, so anytime you can get a third player to come in and score in double figures and avoid mistakes, you really appreciate it.”
The Lady Rams improved their record to 8-11 overall and 6-5 within the conference. On Thursday, No. 1 ranked Benedict College, who beat the Rams 77-42 in their last meeting, comes to town for Senior Day, and Saturday’s win gave Skinner just a taste of what’s to come as the regular season winds down.
“It was a big boost for us, it’s going to take some road wins to get ready for the tournament on Thursday, and that’s where you really see your team’s morale go up,” Skinner said. “We hope the fans, band and community comes out to support like they did (Saturday). It was a big win for us, but we’ve got No. 1 Benedict coming up, and that’s just as big of a game as (Saturday) was.”