Women’s team clinches conference tournament bid

North Alabama sophomore guard Savannah Stults goes to the rim against Valdosta State Feb. 18 at Flowers Hall. The Lions clinched a playoff spot in the win against the Blazers.

by Sports Editor Andrew Fulmer

The North Alabama women’s basketball team has secured its place in the Gulf South Conference tournament after defeating the Valdosta State Blazers 70-52 Feb. 18 in the Lions’ home finale.

The Lions (12-8 GSC) could play at least one more game at Flowers Hall, however.

UNA is still in contention to secure one of the remaining top four seeds and the right to host a quarterfinal matchup in the conference tournament, along with Lee (14-6), Valdosta State (14-6) and West Georgia (12-8).

West Florida (16-4) sits atop the GSC standings and has already secured a top four finish.

UNA has two games remaining in the regular season, and both are on the road. The team has a 4-6 record on the road this season.

The Lions are 13-2 at Flowers Hall.

“We have to try to be a better basketball team on the road,” said UNA head coach Missy Tiber. “I think we are a really good basketball team at home. You learn how to win at home first and then figure out how to win on the road. That’s part of building a basketball program.

“We are extremely young, and we have to be better at handling things. Our maturity level and consistency level on the road is a challenge for us right now.”

In the race for a GSC top-four seed, the Lions will face two teams on the road that are middle-of-the-pack in the conference this season in Union (10-10) and Christian Brothers (9-11). Both teams are vying for a tournament berth.

The Lions handily beat Union, the defending GSC champions 75-53 at home Jan. 9 in a game that saw junior forward Michaela DeKilder tally a season-high 20 rebounds.

“We’re coming together as a team to finish out the way we need to at the end of the season,” DeKilder said.

The team’s previous meeting with Christian Brothers Jan. 7 was back-and-forth long into the fourth quarter where the Lions prevailed 68-61 in Florence.

UNA’s struggles on the road are an aspect Tiber will focus on correcting in the final few practices of the regular season, along with reinforcing the young team’s confidence, she said.

“We’ve hit a few rough spots, but we’re working on it,” said sophomore guard Savannah Stults. “During practice, we work on getting back to where we were during the regular season. I have plenty of confidence in this team.”

Editor’s Note: The final GSC standings will be announced at the conclusion of the final conference game Feb. 25. We will announce when and where the Lions will play on Twitter

@FlorAlaSports.