2004-05 Season Article Archive – February-March
UWG exacts revenge at Montevallo
Montevallo, Ala. – February 5, 2005 –Erica McCoy hit a free-throw, then got her own rebound with 40 seconds left to seal the West Georgia Braves’ third GSC East win of the season, beating the Montevallo Lady Falcons 63-53. The win puts the Braves back in position to make the conference tournament at the end of the regular season.
The Braves fell behind by double digits in the second half thanks to a 27-5 run by the Lady Falcons. But behind the great shooting of Tai Ellis and Natasha Liggins, West Georgia came from behind for the 10-point victory.
Ellis scored 21 points to lead the Braves and Liggins followed up with 12. West Georgia moves to 11-9 on the season and 3-5 in the GSC East.
Braves make it two in a row
Livingston, Ala. – February 7, 2005 – The monkey that had been on the back of the West Georgia Braves earlier this season showing signs of getting off. For the second straight road game, the Braves came from behind and won a game on the road, this time an 84-72 win over West Alabama.
Tai Ellis had her second straight 20-plus game, leading the effort with 28 points while Milan Cary poured in 13. Natasha Liggins added 10 points to the effort.
The Braves opened up the game cold, falling behind 7-0 just two minutes after the opening tip. But Ellis led the charge back and West Georgia took the lead at the half on two treys from Stacy Cheesman in the final minute of the opening period.
In the second half, the Tigers and Braves went back-and-forth before West Georgia began to pull away with 10 minutes left. UWG shot 52 percent in the second half to seal the deal.
The win puts the Braves right back into the thick of things in the Gulf South Conference East Division with a 4-5 record in conference play. The Braves move to 12-9 overall.
West Georgia collects huge win over top dog Valdosta
Carrollton, Ga. – February 12, 2005 – Home games are crucial in the Gulf South Conference. Saturday night in Carrollton, West Georgia picked up a huge win over the Valdosta State Lady Blazers, beating the top team in the GSC East 57-51. It was the Braves’ first win over a ranked opponent since the 2002-03 season when West Georgia beat Kennesaw State at the HPE Building.
It was the kind of game in which the the hopes of the entire season seem to rest on the shoulders of the next shot. When those shoulders belong to Natasha Liggins, she wears the burden lightly. The junior point guard was huge down the stretch for the Braves, hitting five free-throws in the final two minutes of the game to seal the win. Liggins led West Georgia’s effort with 16 points on the night.
Valdosta jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first five minutes, keeping the Braves off balance with the top defense in the Gulf South Conference. But in a three minute span, the Braves erased that lead and took a 9-8 lead on a Nikki Blakely jumper.
For the remainder of the half, West Georgia stayed one step ahead of the Lady Blazers and pulled out to a 26-21 lead at the half. But it’s tough to keep a team like VSU down for long.
Valdosta came out of the locker room scrappy, and clawed their way back up to a one-point lead less than six minutes into the second half.
The first tie of the game came 30 seconds after the Lady Blazers took the lead on a Tai Ellis free-throw. From the 14:16 mark to the 3:10 mark, the two teams tied five times as the see-saw battle continued.,br>
But at 46-46 with 2:40 left in the contest, Liggins’ jumper found the bottom of the net, puting the Braves ahead for good.
In addition to Liggins’ 16 points, Ellis and Milan Cary both had 11 points in the Braves 13th win of the season. Vemetra White was big on the offensive glass on the night, collecting five rebound and four on the offensive side.
Braves win fourth straight in a nailbiter
Carrollton, Ga. – February 14, 2005 – The West Georgia Braves keep getting big win after big win in the Gulf South Conference. This weekend, the top two teams in the GSC East invaded Carrollton and left wounded after falling to the Braves. Monday night, West Florida was West Georgia’s fourth straight victim in a 62-61 UWG win.
Though the Braves scored the first bucket of the contest, the Lady Argonauts took the lead right back on a three-pointer from Michelle Gibson. West Florida held the lead for the majority of the first half, but the Braves stayed close on their heels.
But with 4:31 left in the opening period, Nikki Blakely’s jumper gave the Braves their first lead of the contest. The two teams teetered back and forth for the remainder of the half and went into the locker room at the break tied at 28.
In the second half, the roles switched as West Georgia led for the majority of the period. The lead reached a high point with 4:16 left in the contest as the Braves took a 59-51 lead on a layup from center Vemitra White
But over the final four minutes, West Florida came back annd tied the game at with 55 seconds left in the contest. But Tai Ellis had icewater in her veins in hitting the game-winning free-throw with eight seconds left. The Lady Argos tried one last attempt that fell short.
Nearly every Brave scored on the night, led by Natasha Liggins with 11 points. Blakely was the only other player in double figures for the Braves on the night.
West Georgia now 14-9 on the year and 6-5 in the conference. The four straight conference wins have vaulted the Braves back into contention for one of those five spots for the conference tournament.
Women join men in regional rankings
Braves remain tops in men’s poll; Women enter South Region at seventh
Carrollton, GA – February 16, 2005 – Two weeks ago the West Georgia Braves women’s basketball team was off the radar screen. After rising to sixth in the South Region rankings in early January, the Braves’ fortunes had tumbled. They completed the first half of the GSC East schedule with a league record of 2-5, and a reversal of fortune would be necessary to entertain any hopes of securing a berth in next month’s GSC Tournament.
Does a perfect February, to date, qualify as a reversal of fortune? Four consecutive victories, three of avenging earlier losses, have pushed the Braves back into the picture for not only a GSC Tourney berth, but for an ever bigger prize: a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
West Georgia, 14-9 on the season, 5-4 in the GSC East. returned Wednesday to the region rankings for the first time in three weeks. The Braves are rated seventh in the latest weekly poll released by the NCAA Division II South Region Advisory Committee.
For West Georgia’s men, their 21-3 record (9-2 in GSC East) has landed them in a familiar place. The Braves are again the top rated team in the South Region, a spot they have occupied since the season’s first poll in January.
The South Region rankings are the tools used by the respective Regional Advisory Committees in selecting the fields for both NCAA South Region Tournaments. Each Region Tournament field will include the champions of league tourneys in the Gulf South, Sunshine State, and Southern Intercollegiate Conferences. The remaining five slots will go to the highest ranked remaining teams.
UWG’s women are poised for an even more lofty space in next week’s rankings. Today’s poll came without Monday’s win over sixth-ranked West Florida being factored into the equation. A West Georgia win in Saturday’s game at Alabama Huntsville would all but guarantee a climb in next week’s poll. It would also virtually guarantee West Georgia a berth in next month’s GSC Tournament in Tupelo, Miss.
For the Braves’ men, Wednesday’s ranking comes one day after they moved to third in the latest NABC Division II Coaches Poll. Overall, their 21-3 record gives them two fewer losses than any other team in the region. UWG hopes that is significant factor in their drive to host next month’s South Region Tournament.
West Georgia is 9-2 in GSC East play, and has already clinched a berth in the conference tournament. They are tied with Montevallo for the division lead. Should the teams remain tied, a coin flip will decide seeding for the league tourney.
Saturday, West Georgia visits Alabama-Huntsville while Montevallo plays at West Florida.
Fifth straight win brings Braves to within a step of Tupelo
Carrollton, Ga. – February 19, 2005 – The West Georgia Braves’ beat the Alabama-Huntsville Lady Chargers Saturday night in Huntsville, extending their win streak to seven and ensuring a trip to Tupelo for the Gulf South Conference Tournament for the second straight season.
The Braves led nearly wire-to-wire in Saturday night’s contest, taking the lead at the 18:14 point in the first half and never looking back the entire way. Midway through the first half, West Georgia held a 12-point lead at 24-12.
But the Lady Chargers made a run at the Braves in the final five minutes of the half, pulling to within three at 30-27 heading into the locker room.
In the second half, it was all West Georgia as the Braves used a 12-2 run in the first four minutes of the period to secure the win and a trip to Tupelo in two weeks for the conference tourney.
Three Braves scored in double figures in the game, led by Tai Ellis’ 17. Natasha Liggins followed up with 14 and Nikki Blakely added 10 for the cause.
West Georgia moves to 15-9 on the season and 7-5 in the GSC East.
BRAVES HEADED TO TUPELO!
Florence, Ala. – February 21, 2005 – It’s been a decade since the West Georgia Braves made the Gulf South Conference tournament two years straight. Monday night, the Braves’ win over North Alabama coupled with losses by Lincoln Memorial and Montevallo, punched West Georgia’s ticket for the conference tourney in Tupelo in a little over a week.
The Braves and Lions fought back and forth throughout the first half, with no team able to get a foothold on any significant lead. With two seconds left in the period, Gleneva Marks’ jumper in the lane gave West Georgia a five-point lead at the half, the biggest lead of the game thus far.
In the 2004-05 season, the West Georgia Braves have been a second-half team, and continued the trend Monday night with a 10-3 run out of the break, building a 12-point lead in the first few minutes of the second half.
The lead continued to increase, reaching as much as 19 in the period before head coach Craig Roden called off the dogs as the Braves secured their second straight trip to the GSC tourney.
Saturday night against Lincoln Memorial becomes a big game, because a win for West Georgia in that contest moves the Braves out of the play-in round of the tourney.
It was the Braves’ sixth straight win, moving the record on the season to 15-9 and 8-5 in the GSC East.
Men stay put, women move up in regional rankings
Carrollton, Ga. – February 23, 2005 – The West Georgia Braves’ women’s six-game winning streak continues to garner attention from the rest of the region. In Wednesday’s regional rankings the Braves moved up to the seventh spot. On the men’s side, the Braves stayed in at the top of the 10-team ranking.
The Braves leapfrogged West Florida, but remained behind Paine and formerly 10th ranked Fort Valley State. GSC West power Central Arkansas retained the top spot and Henderson State dropped to third in the ranking.
On the men’s side, West Georgia stayed at the top, followed by Lynn, Florida Gulf Coast and Montevallo. Monday’s loss at North Alabama was not included in this week’s rankings.
The regional rankings are used by the NCAA selection committees to determine participants in the 2005 South Regional. The conference champion from each of the three member conferences receives an automatic bid to the regional, followed by the next five highest ranked teams.
Lady Splitters spoil senior night
Carrollton, Ga. – February 26, 2005 – A poor shooting performance from West Georgia in the second half of Saturday’s contest cleared a path for the Lincoln Memorial Lady Railsplitters to beat the Braves on senior night in Carrollton 59-53.
The Braves came out strong in the first half, building an 11-point lead in the first 15 minutes of the period. But a pair of treys from Mareme Konate in the final three minutes of the half pulled the Lady Railsplitters two within five at 27-22 at the break.
After the half, the cold West Georgia shooting continued as the Braves made just two baskets in the first eight minutes of the second half while LMU built a 35-31 lead. That lead continued to grow to a 10-point apex as the Lady Railsplitters led 51-41 with just 4:51 left in the contest.
UWG pulled to within four in the waning seconds of the game, but Lincoln’s eight free-throws in the final three minutes sealed the Braves’ fate on this night.
Lady Reddies end Braves season at GSC Tourney
Carrollton, Ga. – March 3, 2005 – Turnovers and poor shooting made for a short trip to the 2005 Gulf South Conference tournament for the West Georgia Braves. The Braves shot just 26 percent from the field in the second half of a 75-62 loss to second-seeded Henderson State.
“We just ran up against a better team today,” said head coach Craig Roden. “Henderson is easily the best team we’ve played this year and they are the defending conference champions. So until somebody knocks them off, they are the best.”
Dovile Gulbinaite hit a three-pointer with 18:23 left in the first half to give the Braves a 5-3 lead. Just over a minute later, Satoya Spikes’ trey gave the Lady Reddies control again and the tide would not switch back in West Georgia’s favor again in the contest.
The Braves pulled to within seven at the 3:57 mark, coming back from an 18-point deficit, but the Lady Reddies were just too strong from the field.
“Everybody shot for them today,” said leading scorer Tai Ellis. “It wasn’t just one player, they were all hitting their shots.”
Ellis led the way on the day for the Braves, scoring 25. Gulbinaite and Milan Cary both added 10. Four HSU players scored in double-figures, led by Aesha Carter’s 21 points and 13 rebounds.
West Georgia will have to sit and wait for the NCAA to announce the South Region participants on Sunday. The Braves were sixth in the region going into Thursday’s contest and might need some help getting into the regional with a 16-11 record on the year. .
Ellis, Cary earn All-GSC honors
Carrollton, Ga. – March 9, 2005 – For the second straight season, the West Georgia Braves have had two players named to the All-Gulf South Conference team. Tai Ellis (right) was named First Team All-GSC and Milan Cary was named second team in Tuesday’s announcement by Gulf South officials.
It was the second All-Conference nod for both guards, as Ellis earned a spot on the first-team two years ago as Tai Wilson followed by Cary’s first-team award last season.
Ellis, a junior from Brunswick, Ga., led the Braves in scoring this season with 17.3 points per game. She was an offensive juggernaut all season, with her best game coming against one of the best teams West Georgia saw all year.
With Cary out in the final game before the holiday break, head coach Craig Roden needed an offensive spark against Clayton State. The Lady Lakers would eventually become the No. 2 seed in their respective region. Ellis came out firing and hit for 38 points and 10 rebounds in lead UWG to a 74-9 road win. Her 38 points were the most by a West Georgia player since Gina Flowers set the mark in the 1991-92 season with 52.
Ellis scored 468 points total this year, bringing her two year total to 888, seven shy of 12th on the all-time list. She has 197 career free-throws, 10th all-time at West Georgia. Her free-throw percentage is 82.4, ranking third all-time.
Cary, a senior from Charleston, WV, was second on the team in scoring this season with 12.5 points per game. She was one of two First-team All-GSC players in the 2003-04 season and led the Braves to a miraculous comeback in both of her years at West Georgia.
After an 0-9 start to the season last year, Cary was a stalwart through the remainder of the year, averaging 15.6 points per contest in leading West Georgia to the GSC tournament. This season, she drew more defenders, giving Ellis more open looks at the basket. The one-two punch gave UWG its first back-to-back trips to the conference tournament in 10 years.
2005 ALL-GSC WOMENS BASKETBALL FIRST TEAM EAST DIVISION
Pos Player School Year Hometown C Brandi Roberts UM Sr. Geraldine, Ala. C Yolanda Thomas UWA Sr. Brooksville, Miss. G Michelle Gibson UWF Jr. Windsor, Ontario, Canada G Erin Vierling UWF Jr. Orlando, Fla. G Tai Ellis UWG Jr. Brunswick, Ga. East Division Freshman of the YearJennifer Hendricks, Montevallo East Division Player of the YearMichelle Gibson, West Florida Coach of the YearShannon Bergen, West Florida
SECOND TEAM EAST DIVISION
Pos Player School Year Hometown G Lauren Qualls UNA Jr. Savannah, Tenn. F Candice Ferrell VSU Jr. Hinesville, Ga. G Traci Newton VSU Jr. Dalton, Ga. G Veronica Lee UWA Jr. Columbia, Miss. G Milan Cary UWG Sr. Charleston, W.V.