Written by Shane Thomas
Valdosta State men’s basketball team is gearing up for its final home game of the season, hosting West Florida Saturday afternoon.
The Blazers enter the game on a three-game winning streak following a 70-69 victory over the West Alabama Tigers last Saturday at The Complex.
UWF has won two consecutive games after defeating West Georgia 87-79 last Saturday in their final home game of the season.
It will be senior night as four Blazers: Josh Sparks, Shaquille Harris, James Anacreon, and Jarroid Johnson, will be honored in their final home game before they wrap up the regular season on the road against Gulf South Conference foes Christian Brothers and Delta State.
“I think Senior Night is great at every university across the country,” Mike Helfer, head coach said. “It’s a chance to say thanks to your seniors. Obviously, everybody is very familiar with Josh and I’m so thankful for what he’s done for our school—not only from a basketball standpoint but a community standpoint. But, even guys like James Anacreon and Shaq Harris, who came to play their senior year here, have just been awesome for our program and great representatives.”
Senior forward Josh Sparks is the only player returning from last season and is currently in his third and final season for the Blazers. Sparks is currently having his best season in a Blazers uniform, averaging 12.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.9 blocks, and 1.2 steals in 30.1 minutes per game; all career-highs.
“My first two years I was a role player—just get rebounds, block shots and get a couple buckets here and there,” Sparks said. “Coming out this year, I knew the focus was gonna be on me and some other guys. It just feels good to be able to show my whole repertoire and be able to play my game.”
Sparks is a fan favorite in The Complex and admits that Saturday will be an emotional game for him.
“It’s going be bittersweet,” Sparks said. “I love playing in here—the whole atmosphere. It’s going to be awesome when I’m in the game but when it’s over, I’ll probably shed a couple tears to be honest.”
UWF will be looking to spoil the Blazers’ night, as they aim to complete the regular season sweep.
“[West Florida] is a very good team with a lot of different weapons,” Helfer said. “We’re just gonna have to be prepared for everything that they throw at us—just be into the game from the jump ball. They will definitely be into the game so we need to make sure we’re into the game.”
The biggest concerns for the Blazers revolve around West Florida forward Terrance Beasley and high-scoring guard Ellis Young III.
Young is coming into Saturday’s game as the reigning GSC Player of the Week for the second consecutive week, punctuating the honor with a 41-point performance against West Georgia.
“He missed seven free throws,” Helfer said with a laugh. “But, Ellis and Terrance Beasley are both great players that can go off on any night. You’ve got to make sure that both of those guys are keys defensively, but they’ve got other kids that can make plays and we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready for everybody.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. following the Lady Blazers’ home finale.