LOCAL COLLEGE BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: GSW women make history with 7-1 start; ATC men's, women's season head in different directions

GSW women's basketball coach Kelly Britsky's program hasn't had a winning season since joining NCAA Division II in 2006, but the Lady Hurricanes have more than made up for it with a record-breaking 7-1 start this year.

GSW women's basketball coach Kelly Britsky's program hasn't had a winning season since joining NCAA Division II in 2006, but the Lady Hurricanes have more than made up for it with a record-breaking 7-1 start this year.

AMERICUS -- Kelly Britsky glances at the Top 25 national poll every now and then.

The Georgia Southwestern women's basketball coach doesn't put too much stock in the USA Today/ESPN Division II Coaches poll, but she does notice that her team isn't getting any love.

There's not a single vote for the 7-1 Lady Hurricanes, who are in the midst of their best season in program history since moving to NCAA Division II in 2006.

But that doesn't bother Britsky or her players, who are preparing for their two most important games so far this season -- the Peach Belt Conference opener Saturday at Montevallo and a Dec. 14 matchup against defending national champion Clayton State, which is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation.

The Lady Hurricanes are enjoying this start -- after all, they finished a dismal 12-14 last season, and were a combined 37-96 in the five years previous to this season, including 17-73 in PBC play -- but Britsky said the only thing they are thinking about right now is their PBC schedule.

"I love it. It makes it great to come into work," Britsky said about her team's early season success. "But I think we are just focused on what's coming up in the Peach Belt. If we can be successful there, we know we are really getting it done."

The Lady Hurricanes breezed through their non-conference schedule, winning by an average margin of nearly 20 points per game. Their only blemish was a Nov. 27 loss to Fort Valley State in a game GSW led by nine points at halftime before getting outscored, 39-25, in the second half.

Britsky said the GSW coaches and players were all upset with themselves after losing to a Fort Valley team they believed they should have easily taken care of.

"We were extremely angry," Britsky said. "We felt like it was a game that we should have really controlled and not been in that situation. We shouldn't have been there. It was really frustrating."

So how did the Lady Hurricanes respond after their six-game winning streak was snapped?

Simply by blowing out Truett-McConnell by 54 points Wednesday in their second-to-last non-conference game of the year. It improved GSW's record to 3-0 in the Storm Dome, where they have outscored opponents by an average of 44 points per game.

The Lady Hurricanes have been led by five players who are all averaging more than 10 points per game -- senior Terra Branch (14.2 ppg), senior Tania Walters (12.8 ppg), senior Jessica Bivins (11.4 ppg), senior Jessica Jones (11.2 ppg) and junior Adrian Randall (11.1 ppg, 12.1 rpg).

"That's probably our strength," Britsky said. "On any given day we don't have a clue who will step up and be the leading scorer."

Branch, Walters and Bivins are guards returning from last year's team, while Jones (a transfer from Mars Hill, N.C., College) and Randall (a transfer from Marshall University) have manned the post. GSW is a guard-heavy team, balanced out by 6-foot-2 Randall, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"She has really owned the boards," Britsky said of her center. "She has stepped up and figured out the true talent she has. And I don't think she has come close to realizing how good she can be."

It hasn't taken long for the Lady Hurricanes to realize just how good of a team they can be this year. Britsky admitted her girls still have a little bit of growing to do and the depth on the bench doesn't stretch very far, but those five starters who each average more than 30 minutes per game are starting to open some eyes around Southwest Georgia.

"They are focused, which is something I have noticed," Britsky said. "They have kind of policed themselves as far as staying on track and doing some good things. It's nice for a coach to be able to sit back and watch a team that plays like this."

LADY TITANS STAY UNBEATEN: Youth and inexperience haven't seemed to bother the Albany Tech women's basketball team this season, which is off to its best start in the three-year history of the program.

The Lady Titans improved to 5-0 on Wednesday with a 72-59 victory against Atlanta Metro in the Region XVII opener for both teams.

"We are starting to put things together," ATC coach Kenneth Williams said. "We wanted to get started in the conference on a good note. This was actually our first time winning at Atlanta Metro. We have never played well up there. It was good to get that monkey off our back."

The Lady Titans' only returning starter, Bianca Fennessee, is a big reason why they have gotten off to such a fast start and why they knocked off Atlanta Metro on Wednesday. The 6-foot-2 sophomore from Chicago had 21 points and 26 rebounds against Atlanta Metro and is leading the conference with 13.5 rebounds per game.

"She has really been coming on lately," Williams said of his star forward. "If we can, we want her to have her touch the ball every time we come down the court."

Sophomore Shakima Wiggins, a transfer from Georgia Perimeter, also scored 25 points against Atlanta Metro, and the Lady Titans will need both of their stars to continue to put up scorching numbers like that when they host three games in a four-day span next week. They will play region foes Central Georgia Tech and Chattahoochee Tech on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, then Gordon College on Saturday.

CONTROVERSIAL ENDING FOR TITANS: The Albany Tech men's basketball team fell to 3-5 this season after a 55-53 loss to Atlanta Metro on Wednesday night, but ATC coach Sylvester Patterson said it was a defeat that never should have happened.

The coach said a series of bad officiating calls at the end of the game, mixed in with some unfortunate ATC errors, gave Atlanta Metro the come-from-behind victory on its home court.

"We were more angry than anything," Patterson said about how his team was feeling on its three-hour bus ride back to Albany. "The kids were angry. They felt like the game was taken away from them."

With 30 seconds left in the game, ATC was leading, 52-49, and had the ball. However, a Titan turnover gave the ball to Atlanta Metro, which then went to the free throw line for a 1-and-1. The front end of the 1-and-1 rimmed out, but a pair of ATC players went up for the rebound and tipped it straight to Atlanta Metro's sharp shooter, who nailed a game-tying 3-pointer.

What happened next was what Patterson was still frustrated about Thursday evening. ATC freshman Anthony Mackey was fouled and put on the line for two free throws, but after he missed the first free throw, Atlanta Metro grabbed the rebound and took it down the court for a bucket.

"I ran on the court to get them to stop the play," Patterson said. "Then they decided it should have been a double bonus, so they gave (Mackey) his second free throw. But they still counted (Atlanta Metro's field goal that put the Titans down by two)."

That controversial bucket ended up being the deciding factor in the Titans' Region XVII opener. Former Worth County star Jamorris Gaines led ATC on Wednesday with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Mackey, a former Monroe star, had nine points and six rebounds.