Fort Valley, GA–The significance of Saturday’s (December 17th) basketball game between the Lady Wildcats of Fort Valley State University (FVSU) and the Lady Wolves of West Georgia University (WGU) was evident early in the HPE Arena. With FVSU Head Coach Lonnie Bartley on the brink of reaching his 600th career win in front of a hometown crowd, you would expect that he would be a little bit nervous.

However, you might not expect that nervousness to flow to his players. For the game’s first 5:58 it did! The clearest evidence of their nerves was the fact that the Lady Wildcats did not get their first basket until the 14:02 mark in the first half.

“We were uptight at first, said senior forward Jasmine Birdsong. We let them dictate the tempo. Instead of settling down and playing Lady Wildcat basketball, we played their brand of basketball. We just had to settle down and play our brand of basketball.”

Trailing 5-0 at that point, FVSU got its first score on a lay up by Carmenonique Dawson. After breaking the scoring ice, the Lady Wildcats thawed out completely on their way to a 63-56 win which gave Bartley his 600th career victory.

After shaking off the slow start, FVSU finished the first half shooting 31% (13 of 42) from the floor. And while WGU took an early lead, their shooting accuracy took a noticeable dip for the remainder of the half. In fact, they made only five first half field goals on 25 attempts. With a 31-19 lead at halftime, the Lady Wildcats had what appeared to be enough cushion to ensure the history-making win for Coach Bartley

In the second half, the Lady Wolves made several attacks on the FVSU lead. By increasing their second half shooting percentage to 40.5% (15 of 37), WGU, at one point cut the Lady Wildcat lead to six points. For each attack, however, the Lady Wildcats were able stave off the Wolves. For the half, the Lady Wildcats shot 37% from the field by converting 11 of 29 shots.

Overall, FVSU shot 33.8% for the game. They converted 24 of 71 shot attempts, made eight of 26 three point shots, and made seven of 14 free throws. Freshman Carmenonique Dawson led the Lady Wildcats in scoring with 18 points. She also pulled in nine rebounds. Point guard Whitley Smith finished with 12 points and four assists. D’Ambria Thomas added nine points and Tamara Andrews contributed eight points.

When asked his feelings about winning his 600th game, Bartley said jokingly, “Well it means I’ve been here a pretty long time.”  He continued, “Seriously though, as I reflect on tonight’s win, I remain amazed at how truly blessed I am, said Bartley.   As a kid growing up in LaGrange, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined winning 600 games as a college basketball coach; and to boot, at my alma mater! This win tonight is not a celebration of me, instead it is a recognition of all the former players and supporters of this program who have made this night possible.”

“600 is quite a number, said FVSU Athletics Director Percy Caldwell after the Lady Wildcats win. There are only about five NCAA Division II coaches, including men and women, in the entire country to achieve that type of goal. And Lonnie’s situation is unique. How many other coaches have been at the same school for 28 years? I’m glad to be the athletics director just so I can shake his hand for 600 wins.”

“It’s privilege. I’m so proud of my coach, continued Birdsong. We also have to thank the people who came before us and paved the road for us to get to this point. We have to be appreciative and keep building on that road.”

With Bartley’s 600th win, the Lady Wildcats are now 6-2 overall and remain 4-0 in conference play. The Lady Wildcats return to the hardwood on January 3, 2012 when they host the Thorobrettes of Kentucky State University at 6 p.m. in the HPE Arena.

Article referenced from SIAC.