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The regular season is over and now it’s time to get ready for “The Best Basketball at the Beach.”

GSC tournament starts tonight in Fla.

Photo Credit: Mac Ingram
Tristan Steele, senior guard, shoots a jumper against Coastal Georgia in VSU's final home game of the season on Thursday, Feb. 22. VSU won the game 100-65

The regular season is over and now it’s time to get ready for “The Best Basketball at the Beach.”

The Gulf South Conference tournament tips-off Thursday night in Niceville, Fla., at The Arena on the campus of Northwest Florida State College just 15 miles from Ft. Walton Beach.

The men’s team, due to their less than satisfying regular season conference record (3-11), have earned the seventh seed in the tournament.

The women’s team, which finished with a promising (10-4), record, take the third seed.

Lady Blazer forward Brittany Ferguson, despite being close to a white sandy beach, is making sure her team doesn’t get distracted from the objective.

“It’s a business trip,” Ferguson said. “I’m just hoping to keep playing. We might get side tracked because we’re going down to the beach and get to stay in a condo. That fun stuff must stay in the back of the mind. We can only enjoy it if we take care of business.”

The Lady Blazers face the North Alabama Lions in the quarterfinals Thursday night.

VSU split the season series with UNA this year losing the first game76-69 in Birmingham then a month later beating the Lions in the P.E Complex by one point, 59-58.

Being played on a neutral floor should make the tiebreaker an exciting game.

VSU Head Coach Kiley Hill says that taking care of the basketball will be highly stressed this weekend.

“That’s been our achilles heel as of late,” Hill said. “Valuing the basketball is going to be a big piece of the puzzle. When we don’t turn the basketball over we become a very good basketball team.”

Nevertheless, the Lions posted a (5-9) GSC record this season and undoubtedly are the underdogs in this matchup.

The men’s team will compete on Friday afternoon against the No. 2 seed Christian Brothers who are ranked No. 8 in Division II NCAA basketball.

The Blazers were swept by the Buccaneers in the regular season and are (0-3) against nationally ranked teams.

Although men’s Head Coach Mike Helfner just finished his worst season (11-15) in his career at VSU, he has reached the semifinals of each of the last four GSC tournaments, the longest such streak in school history.

Both the men’s and women’s championship games will be televised by ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court on Sunday.

The Lady Blazers are expected to have much less trouble advancing to the semifinals, where they will run into Alabama-Huntsville or West Georgia depending on the winner of that game.

Ferguson could care less who the following opponent might be and describes every team the Lady Blazers face this weekend as “roadblocks” from winning their first GSC title since 1984.

Hill has put together another remarkable season to add to his tenure, and his team has their eye on the prize.

“This late in the year, it’s not as much physical,” Hill said. “It’s 90 percent mental. You can take all those records and throw them out at conference time because at this time of the year you’ve played everyone twice. It just comes down to who is going to execute and defend.”


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