Coastal Georgia women hitting their stride

From the The Brunswick News

It was not supposed to be this easy.

The College of Coastal Georgia women's basketball team is rolling right along in its first season of true conference play in the Southern States Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Mariners lead the East division of the SSAC, sporting a 5-1 conference mark that is right in keeping with their overall mark of 13-3.

After falling by a 56-52 score on Nov. 30 at home to West division leader Auburn-Montgomery, the Coastal Georgia women have won seven of eight, their only blemish a 5-point loss at NCAA Division II West Georgia.

The Mariners have won four straight since that Dec. 18 setback -- all away from home -- and are getting set for a pair of SSAC contests this week beginning at Brewton-Parker College on Wednesday.

"It's working because we've got the right mix of kids," said CCGA women's coach Betsy Harris. "We have good chemistry and you have to have chemistry to succeed. They've bought into some of the things that I brought to the table, and it's working so far."

The latest run by the Mariners has been fueled by a starting rotation of Sequoya Aldridge, Crystal Chaney, Margaret Harvey, Madel Madden and Maria Marshall -- three of whom are seniors -- that Harris said has been setting a winning tone.

"It kind of fell into place on the five who have been the most consistent and the five that I needed to start the first five minutes (of games) off well," said Harris. "That's usually the five that are in during the last five minutes and during tight ballgames. Then I have a couple who come off the bench getting consistent minutes and have done well, also."

Chaney, a 6-foot-1 senior forward from Lawrenceville by way of Georgia Perimeter College, leads the Mariners in scoring with a 12.1-per game average. She also has chipped in 6.5 rebounds per night and is connecting on an impressive 49-percent shooting clip from the floor.

The 6-1 Marshall, a senior forward/center from Pompano Beach, Fla., is averaging 10.4 points per contest and her 8.8 rebounds per night lead the Coastal squad. Marshall has posted four double-doubles thus far this season, her best night a 19-point, 14-rebound effort in the Mariners' only other loss, Nov. 25 at Division II stalwart Augusta State.

"Crystal has the best skill set and just finds a way to get it into the basket," Harris said of Chaney. "I do push the guards to look for (Chaney and Marshall) to score because there aren't many people in the conference that can play two post players like them with the talents they have. They have stepped it up, being seniors. I lost my captain, (senior guard) Brittany Clark with a torn ACL, and when she went down, I had Maria be captain in her place, and she carries that role seriously and has stepped up her game."

Chaney said teamwork and talent have been carrying the Mariners. She and Marshall, she said, are having success in the paint because teams aren't used to dealing with two centers at once.

"We have a lot of players who are very talented, and all of us working together, it works," Chaney said. "A lot of times other teams don't have two posts, so coach putting us in their together makes it harder for the other teams."

Running the show from her point guard position has been the speedy Aldridge, a 5-3 sophomore transfer from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee and a former standout at Glynn Academy. Aldridge's relentless style keeps the Mariners humming in their up-tempo offense, said Harris, and her rebounding ability -- she stands third on the team in boards per night -- is an added bonus.

"Sequoya just plays hard every game," Harris said of Aldridge, who is nursing a fractured finger but still logging 30-plus minutes per night of late. "You know what you are going to get with her. She has definitely been a bright spot. She is just a ball of energy. She's playing the hardest position on the floor with a fractured finger. She gets in the middle of them."

Also seeing chunks of playing time during the Mariners' recent hot streak are sophomore guard Olivia Melvin, junior guard Courtney Saunds, junior forward Janele Tucker and freshman forward Janne Tullius.

"The scary thing about my team is, any of them can get double figures at any time," Harris said. "That's the good thing about us. Crystal and Maria have been pretty consistent, but Courtney hit 20 points one game, then Olivia will step up and get 17 or 18 or Madel. I do want somebody from the guard position to step up scoring-wise, and it could easily be one of them. I need them to be consistent and they know that."

Following Brewton-Parker, the Mariners will face a critical test in Lee University, the sixth-ranked team in the NAIA that Harris' squad will play Saturday in Tennessee. The Lady Flames (13-1 overall, 4-1 SSAC) boast the conference's leading scorer in guard Hollie German and trail Coastal by just a half game in the East standings heading into their Thursday contest at conference foe Southern Wesleyan.

"Lee is a bunch of fundamental, athletic girls," Harris said. "I'm hoping we play to Lee's level this weekend. Win or lose, I'm hoping we have a good showing.

"I've told people that if my team ever peaks, they are going to be fun to watch. We haven't even come close to peaking and we're doing well right now. I'm hoping I get to see them peak this year. This could be a really fun team to watch and scary for everybody else to play."

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Release Date: 1/9/2013
Source: The Brunswick News

By DAVE JORDAN