Four of Vanguard's starters scored in double figures, led by a 50 percent (10-of-20) performance by Nicole Ballestero, who led the Lions (24-3) with 26 points. Esther Timmermans followed with her sixth double-double of the season, 16 points and 14 rebounds, while senior transfer Alison Drennan had her third double-double with a season-high 14 points and 16 rebounds. Maree Drennan added 13 points.
Southern Polytechnic scored first on a basket by Sarah Ogoke, but Vanguard quickly flipped the score en route to a near gridlock of a first half. The two teams knotted the score eight times in the opening eight minutes of play and finished the half with nine lead changes. The final change came with 6:39 remaining in the period on a Timmermans basket to give Vanguard a 23-22 lead. The Lions worked the lead to seven, 32-24, before closing the first half up five, 33-28.
The Lions used a steady flow of offense to stretch their lead to double figures, 41-31, within the first three minutes of the second half. It remained that way for most of the next 10 minutes until Ogoke hit a 3-pointer with four minutes left to pull Southern Poly back within single digits.
Vanguard managed to hold off the Hornets by keeping a 6-to-8-point lead, but Ashlie Billingslea hit a 3 with 1:27 remaining and another jumper with just under a minute to play to cut it to three, 77-74. She finished the night with five 3-pointers and a game-high 28 points.
Ogoke followed Billingslea's lead for the Hornets with 25 points, including four 3-pointers, and added 12 rebounds for a double-double. Arnissa Galloway also scored in double figures with 11 points and Erica Turner had 10 boards.
The Lions hit 5-of-6 free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal victory.
Both teams shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc, as Southern Poly hit 11-of-21 (.524) in the game and Vanguard was 4-of-8. The Lions shot 51.6 percent total from the field (33-of-64), while holding SPSU to 35.1 percent.
Southern Polytechnic State finishes the season with a 25-6 record, improving from 6-24 a year ago.
Vanguard's second round game is scheduled to tip at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Friday.