Coastal claims top spot

From the The Brunswick News

Olivia Melvin knew if she didn't make her foul shots, her coach wouldn't let her forget about it.

With a victory in reach, the College of Coastal Georgia point guard sank the freebies that mattered Thursday night and left her teammates and head coach Betsy Harris all smiles.

At Howard Coffin Gym, the Coastal Georgia women knocked off visiting Southern Polytechnic State 59-54 to claim outright possession of first place in the Southern States Athletic Conference East division standings.

"Southern Poly is one of our rivals and has been, so we always play hard against them," Harris said. "I'm impressed by my girls. I didn't expect this. We thought the best thing was to try to slow it down. Southern Poly is a great team and the most aggressive team we've played, with a good coaching staff and players."

Melvin, the team's leading scorer with a 14.4 per-game average going in, finished with 21 points to lead all scorers, making seven of 12 shots from the field and three 3-point baskets. The junior from Statesboro connected on four free throws -- all in the final 54 seconds -- with none more important than the last one with 20 seconds left that put her team up by the final margin.

Melvin said Harris -- nervous from the outset with just eight players at her disposal against a highly touted team -- gave her extra motivation when she kept getting to the foul line with the game in the balance.

"I kept missing my first free throw (of a guaranteed two), and I kept hearing (Harris) saying 'If you don't make this free throw, I'm going to kill you' or 'I'm going to run you,' and she is a woman of her word. If she says she's going to run you, she's going to run you."

Melvin said she was extra motivated from the outset because of the importance of the contest.

"I get up for all conference games. If the game really means a lot, I get up for it. Being mentally tough and working hard (was the difference). Tonight it was who wanted it more, who was going to dive on the floor for that loose ball, and who was going to make those tough shots. We had to overcome that, and we did."

Acworth senior Krystal Lewis finished with 14 points for CCGA, including eight points in the first 20 minutes that helped the Mariners to a 33-27 halftime advantage. Gabby O'Sullivan, a freshman guard from Australia who earned a start, contributed 11 points, five rebounds and four assists, and freshman Gianna Vastola led CCGA with 11 rebounds -- seven in the second half.

"Gabby brings energy and gives us a spark, so we started her to get her in there right off the bat," said Harris. "I'm proud of the girls. I didn't expect them to play as well as they did with us being shorthanded against such a good team."

After starting the season 15-0 and climbing as high as No. 14 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics poll, the Coastal women (17-2 overall, 7-2 SSAC) had dropped two of their last three leading up to Southern Poly (11-5, 6-3). The win Thursday was their 10th at home in 11 tries.

Sarah Ogoke, who fouled out in the closing moments, led Southern Poly with 16 points, and Erica Turner scored 14 for the Lady Hornets.

Release Date: 1/24/2014
Source: The Brunswick News