By TAYLOR DENMAN firstname.lastname@example.org
The start of the NAIA basketball season was rough for Coastal Georgia, but with a turn of the calendar, a new leaf did not follow for the basketball programs.
Since its win at home against NCAA Division II opponent Armstrong State in mid-December, the Coastal Georgia men's basketball team is winless, now in the midst of a 14-game losing streak. The Lady Mariners have managed three conference wins since opening is Southern States Athletic Conference schedule with a win over Mobile on Dec. 1.
There are six games left on the regular season schedule, and both teams play at Blue Mountain College today.
The Lady Mariners have spent the season plagued by injuries. After starting seven of the first eight games of the season, Coastal Georgia lost one of its leading rebounders, Ashanti Groover, for the rest of the season to a torn her ACL. Head coach Roger Hodge said he is confident some of his other peripheral players will return from more minor injuries. He said Lynsey Washington and Kaci Palo are returning to full strength and he expects them to play at Blue Mountain today, while guard Kennedy Williams is still healing from a rib injury and he described her status as probable.
Needless to say, the injuries his team has piled up in the first year at the helm have plagued the team's consistency.
"I'm not going to lie, it's been very difficult," Hodge said. "Some people have had to grow up quickly. I'm happy with how they've grown. (Additional experience) will help them down the road, whether it's them growing down the stretch or a few years forward."
Playing some youngsters has supplied some upside. Freshman forward Ashlee Francis had somewhat of a breakout in a Feb. 2 loss at home to Bethel. The freshman from Macon scored 30 points on an 11-for-16 night from the floor, including three 3-pointers. She is averaging close to a double-double with 10.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
The Lady Mariners may not blow anyone away with a 3-11 conference record, but Hodge sees this team laying the groundwork for future programs.
"Not only can we continue to make strides but we have to," Hodge said. "The issue is the consistency of it. We've had a couple halves we've played well ... They're laying the foundation for the future of our program, and how they play now sets the tone for what we can do down the road."