Marietta native Matt Shaw led the Hurricanes past Albany State on Saturday to lift GSW to its second straight win while denying the Rams a victory in their 2012-13 season opener.
AMERICUS — New year, new players, new hope.
But Saturday’s season opener just felt a little too much like last season for the Albany State men’s basketball team.
The Rams, who led for much of the game, got outscored, 10-1, in the final 3:41 and lost to Georgia Southwestern, 59-50.
It had a familiar feeling to many of last year’s game for the Rams, who lost five games by three or fewer points en route to their sixth straight losing season. They believe this year could be the season that redefines a program, but Saturday’s opener wasn’t a good start.
“This was a little different (than last year),” Cameron said. “There were a lot of things we could have controlled. It’s stuff we can fix, but we missed a lot of shots that we normally would have made. It’s stuff we know we can do a better job at.”
It was the second straight win for the Hurricanes, who improved to 2-1 thanks to clutch play from Alan Arnett and Matt Shaw down the stretch.
Albany State’s James Lodman tied the game at 49-49 with 4:10 remaining, but Shaw hit 5 of 6 free throws and Arnett hit a pair of field goals, including a key 3-pointer, to close the game.
Arnett came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points, while Shaw added 12 points and seven rebounds.
GSW coach Mike Leeder credited his team for playing tough down the stretch, but he also said the absence of ASU leaders Justin Wilcox and Jaren Harris, who will miss the first half of the season for personal reasons, was the difference in the final minutes.
“The fact that (Cameron) is playing short-handed, without a doubt, affected him,” Leeder said. “I think that they just wore down at the end more than anything. Hopefully we can get better offensively with so many new guys..”
ASU was led by Justin Udi, who scored 19 points, while former Worth County star Jerome Hamilton added seven points and eight rebounds.
VALDOSTA STATE WOMEN 67, GSW 51: The Lady Hurricanes got a game-high 18 points from freshman Jasmine McSwain on Saturday against Valdosta State (3-0), but it wasn’t enough to lift GSW to its first win.
McSwain, who was last week’s Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week, also led GSW (0-3) in rebounding with nine and was 6-for-11 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line, while Shaniece Sheffield came off the bench to add 10 points.
VSU had four players in double figures, including Brittney Nelson, who had 12 points, a game-high 21 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
Darton women win third straight in rout
ALBANY — It’s all about defense right now for the Darton State College women’s basketball team.
That’s what Lady Cavs coach Lea Henry has preached all week at practice, and that’s what shined on the court Saturday afternoon.
Powered by balanced scoring and lockdown defense, the Lady Cavs stayed unbeaten in Region XVII play with an 80-46 victory against previously unbeaten Chattahoochee Tech.
“We came out and defended really well,” Henry said. “When we defend well we are going to get transition opportunities, and I thought (Michelle Mitchell and Jasmine Wilson) pushed the ball really well in transition to get us some easy baskets.”
Mitchell and Wilson led the Lady Cavs (5-1, 2-0) with 15 points apiece, while Shronica Weaver added 14 points and Iesha Bonner had nine points and 10 rebounds.
Chelsea Maultsby and Mikeyta Glaze led Chattahoochee Tech (4-1, 0-1) with nine points each.
Four minutes into the game, the Lady Eagles got their only lead when Glaze hit a 3-pointer to put Chattahoochee on top, 10-9. That’s when something clicked for the Lady Cavs, who went on a 17-1 scoring run and outscored the Lady Eagles, 39-8, the rest of the half thanks to a defense that forced 13 first-half turnovers.
“That’s something we are putting our focus on right now, playing hard and defending well,” said Henry, who is in her second year as coach of the Lady Cavs. “They have to learn to play defense at the intensity level we are asking them to.”
Kadayasha Jones, one of three freshmen in Darton’s starting lineup, felt something click during that 17-1 run.
“It was like, ‘We’re getting it. We’re finally getting it,’ ” said Jones, who finished with five points, seven rebounds and a team-high five assists. “Most of our team are freshmen, so we just weren’t getting it, but now we’re doing a better job on defense. If you don’t play defense, you won’t get the ball and won’t score.”
The Lady Eagles opened the second half with some defensive intensity of their own and went on a 14-5 scoring run, but Darton quickly righted the ship and closed out Chattahoochee Tech, which committed 18 turnovers in the game, for its third consecutive blowout win.
Darton is now alone at the top of the Region XVII standings at 2-0, but it’s early in the season and the Lady Cavs haven’t played traditional region powerhouses Georgia Perimeter, Central Georgia Tech or South Georgia Tech.
When they finally do take the court against the top teams in the region, Mitchell is expecting much of the same.
“We have been hearing a lot of people saying that we have a good chance to win the region,” said Mitchell, who also had nine rebounds and four assists Saturday. “It’s just going to take defense and playing smarter. It’s all about defense.”
That’s what it was all about Saturday, and that’s what Henry thinks could power the Lady Cavs to a region championship.
“That’s where we want to be,” Henry said. “If we can stay healthy and keep working hard, we have a team that has a chance to do that.”
The Lady Cavs play again Tuesday at Andrew College before opening a four-game homestand Nov. 24 against Southern Crescent Tech.