Nationally eighth-ranked Delta State took an early lead and spent the rest of their Sunday afternoon protecting it for a 67-56 win over the Valdosta State Lady Blazers in the semifinal round of the women's NCAA Division II Tournament South Regional at Arkansas Tech University.
The second-seeded Lady Statesmen (27-3) went in front for good at 8-7 on a pair of Bug Cooper free throws with 13:24 left in the first half.
Sixth-seeded Valdosta State was right on Delta State's heels the rest of the way, but the Lady Blazers could not get over the hump.
The Lady Statesmen led 35-28 at halftime and by as many as eight points early in the second half.
Valdosta State got to within one point of the lead after Leschelle Matthews made a 3-pointer to cut Delta State's advantage to 46-45 with 10:53 left in the game.
Cooper answered with a 3-point play for the Lady Statesmen, and Delta State started to pull away.
A 7-0 Lady Statesmen run gave them a 64-54 lead with 2:01 to play. Shameka Russell capped the spurt with an offensive rebound and put-back that gave Delta State its first double-digit lead of the day.
Russell's stick-back proved to be the final dagger as the Lady Statesmen advanced to the NCAA South Region title game for a fifth consecutive year.
Veronica Walker had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Delta State on Sunday. Cooper had 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Matthews and Courtney Mitchell paced Valdosta State (20-9) with 13 points apiece.
Delta State will face either Arkansas Tech or Tampa in the NCAA South Region championship game at 6 p.m. Tuesday.]]>