2004-05 Season Article Archive – Pre-Holiday break


Braves picked second in preseason poll

Carrollton, Ga. – October 21, 2004 – The magical run that ended at the Gulf South Conference tournament in 2004 has transferred into a vote of confidence from the GSC East coaches for the 2004-05 squad. In the preseason coaches poll released Thursday, the Braves were picked to finish second in the GSC East.

“We are surprised by the pick, especially coming off of a nine-win season,” said head coach Craig Roden. “But I think it’s a legitimate pick because I feel like we will be right in the mix.”

The pick marks the highest placement in the preseason poll since the 1993-94 season. The Braves received 36 votes, including two first-place votes, tying UWG with Lincoln Memorial for second. West Georgia also received one vote in a projection of GSC tournament champion.

West Florida, with GSC East player of the Year Erin Vierling returning for her junior season, was picked to win the GSC East. The Braves and Railsplitters followed, with West Alabama picked fourth. The top four finishers receive bids to the Gulf South Conference tournament in Tupelo, Miss., on March 2. Senior guard Milan Cary, first-team All-GSC in 2003-04, was named preseason All-GSC. The Charleston, W.V. native was the Braves’ leading scorer a season ago.

Rocky Start for West Georgia

Milledgeville, Ga. – November 16, 2004 –The 2004-05 season started off Tuesday night with a rough outing against Georgia College and State University, ranked 23rd in the nation. The Lady Bobcats used a 21-0 run to start the second half, beating the Braves 75-44 in West Georgia’s season opener.

The Braves played close with GCSU in the first half, leading 26-23 with less than a minute to play in the period. A pair of free throws and a layup gave the Lady Bobcats a 27-26 halftime advantage.

In the second half, West Georgia turned the ball over eight times in the first five minutes while Georgia College and State came out firing, shooting 53 percent in the second stanza.

Point guard Natasha Liggins came off the bench to lead the Braves with 15 points and seven rebounds. No other Brave scored in double-figures on the evening.

Next up for West Georgia is a trip to Montevallo this weekend for a pair of games in the UM/Coca-Cola/Guesthouse Inn Classic. The Braves play Arkansas-Monticello at 7 p.m. on Friday and Miles at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Braves rebound againsta Cotton Blossoms

Montevallo, Ala. – November 19, 2004 –After a tough loss in the opener Tuesday, the West Georgia Braves bounced back Friday night with a victory over the Arkansas-Monticello Cotton Blossoms, 75-58.

Three Braves scored in double figures, including 25 from Tai Ellis as the Braves used a 14-point halftime lead in a victory in the first night of the University of Montevallo/Coca-Cola/Guesthouse Inn Classic.

West Georgia shot a blistering 55 percent in the opening half to cruise to the 17-point win. Milan Cary came off the bench to score 12 on the night, followed by Natasha Liggins with 10.

The Braves are now 1-1 on the young season and play Miles College Saturday afternoon at Montevallo. Tip time is at 2:30 PM EST.

Offensive weekend continues with win over Miles

Montevallo, Ala. – November 20, 2004 –The mark of head coach Craig Roden’s teams have always been defense. But this year, the offense is also a big piece of the puzzle Saturday afternoon, Miles College found that out as West Georgia won its second straight, 67-41 in the University of Montevallo Classic.

With the help of two All-Conference guards, Milan Cary and Tai Ellis, the Braves shot 46 percent from the field and held Miles to just 22 percent.

West Georgia jumped out to a commanding 31-16 halftime lead, allowing just four baskets from the floor in the first half. Miles shot 17 percent from the field in the opening period.

In the second half, the Braves turned it on, shooting a blistering 53 percent en route to the 26-point victory.

UWG had three players in double-figures, with Cary leading all scorers with 20 points. Nikki Blakely was deadly from beyond the arc, hitting all three treys she took on her way to 13 points. Ellis was the final Brave in double figures with 11.

Next up for the Braves is a showdown with in-state rival Clayton State Friday in the annual UWG Braves Classic. Tip time is 7:30 p.m.

First night of Classic good for Braves

Carrollton, Ga. – November 26, 2004 –It was a good night for the Gulf South Conference in the opening night of the UWG Braves Classic, as both West Georgia and Montevallo came away with double-digit wins.

West Georgia 60
Tampa 42

Welcome back to West Georgia, Tai Wilson. The junior, returning to the HPE Building for her first game since 2003, scored 23 points to lead all scorers as the Braves outran the Tampa Spartans, 60-42.

Wilson was out as a medical redshirt all last season after an All-Conference performance as a sophomore two seasons ago. Her reintroduction to the West Georgia floor came quickly, as she took a long pass from Natasha Liggins and blew past a Tampa defender for a layup and a foul. She made the free-throw to give the Braves a lead that would never go away.

West Georgia led by as much as 11 in the first half on the back of Wilson and the Braves’ other All-Conference wing, Milan Cary. The dynamic duo sprung for 20 of UWG’s 32 first half points, with Ellis collecting 11.

Second verse, same as the first. The Braves came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, with Cary and Ellis leading the way. The pair had West Georgia’s first six points of the second half as the Braves built a 21-point lead, the coasted in for the victory.

Cary was the only other Brave in double figures, finishing the night with 12 and eight rebounds. On the Tampa side, Juanita McClinton shot 7-for-12 from the field, leading the Spartans with 16 points.

The Braves move to 3-1 on the season while the Spartans fall to 3-2.

Montevallo 65

Clayton State 54

Three Lady Falcons scored in double figures on the evening as Montevallo erased a late six-point deficit to collect its third win of the season, a 65-54 victory over Clayton State here at the UWG Braves Classic.

Montevallo had to overcome a spirited effort on the part of the Lady Lakers’ Jamika Hindsman. The senior had a double-double on the night, with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Eight of her rebounds were on the offensive boards.

But shooting was the difference in this game, as Clayton shot just 27 percent from the floor while the Lady Falcons scorched the nets at a 47 percent clip. Brandi Roberts led the way for Montevallo with a double-double of her own, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Malissa Harris also collected 15 points on the night, followed by 12 from Courtney Shields to lead Montevallo to the win.

The victory brings Montevallo’s record to 3-1 on the season and drops Clayton State to 2-2.

Tomorrow, the Lady Falcons lead things off as they face the Lady Spartans from Tampa at 1:00 p.m. West Georgia follows at 3:00 with a contest with Clayton State to finish up the 2004 UWG Braves Classic.

Second day not as friendly to Braves

Carrollton, Ga. – November 27, 2004 – Day two of the West Georgia classic was the exact opposite of day one, with Tampa and Clayton State coming out big over Montevallo and West Georgia.

Clayton State 79
West Georgia 59

Clayton State came out with an attitude and a stifling press that put West Georgia in a funk early on in the final game of the UWG Braves Classic. The Braves never recovered, falling 79-59 to the Lady Lakers.

The Braves came out of the gate cold, shooting just eight percent from the field in the first 16 minutes of the contest while Clayton built a 31-7 lead. The Braves outscored the Lakers 10-2 into the break, trailing 33-17 at halftime.

Out of the locker room, both teams were on fire as the Braves shot 52 percent from the floor and Claytong shot 48 percent in the second half. CCSU cruised in the second half to a 79-59 win.

Natasha Liggins led the Braves on the afternoon with 18 points. Milan Cary followed with 14. For the Lady Lakers, Jamika Hindsman was the team leader with 17 points and nine rebounds.

The loss drops the Braves to 3-2 on the season and brings Clayton to 3-2. West Georgia plays next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in Carrollton against Kennesaw State.

Tampa 64
Montevallo 57

After losing to West Georgia on Friday night, Tampa turned around and took out its frustration on the Montevallo Lady Falcons with a 64-57 win here in the UWG Braves Classic.

Leading 29-21 at the break, the Spartans held Montevallo scoreless in the first thee minutes of the second half while building a 19-point lead.

The Lady Falcons made a run at the close of the contest, but it was too little, too late as the Spartans escaped with a 64-57 win.

Courtney Shields pulled Montevallo to within four points with a three-point bucket with 3:05 left in the contest . But the Tampa defense was too strong in the final minutes, as the Lady Falcons managed just one field goal in the remainder of the game.

Jamie Skinner of Tampa led all scorers with 26 and also pulled down nine rebounds. Jennifer Hendricks led the Lady Falcons with 17 points on the afternoon.

Tampa is now 4-2 on the season while the Lady Falcons fall to 3-2.

West Georgia flexes muscle against Kennesaw State

Carrollton, Ga. – December 1, 2004 –Kennesaw State came to Carrollton last November and delivered a severe beating to West Georgia in the UWG Braves Classic. Milan Cary must have remembered the feeling, because she and the Braves returned the favor tonight, beating the Lady Owls 73-60.

Cary was in total control of this ball game, leading all scorers with 25 and keeping West Georgia in the contest early while the rest of her team struggled from the field. The senior had seven of the Braves’ first nine points of the night while Kennesaw built an early 12-9 lead.

But with 11:16 left in the first half, Natasha Liggins’ first basket gave the Braves a 13-12 advantage, a lead that West Georgia would not relinquish the rest of the night. The lead continued to build and UWG led 35-30 at the break.

Out of the locker room, Nikki Blakely hit a three-pointer to give the Braves an eight-point lead early in the second half. But the Lady Owls played scrappy basketball and pulled to within four on a layup by Lauren Harris with 11:32 to play.

26 seconds later, Liggins hit a jumper, followed by another shot from Blakely and the Braves never looked back from there. The lead reached as much as 16 points twice over the course of the final eight minutes as West Georgia improved to 4-2 on the year.

Next up for the Braves is a trip to Valdosta State for the annual VSU Classic. UWG plays Florida Gulf Coast Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., then Eckerd on Saturday at the same time.

West Georgia takes thriller in Valdosta

Valdosta, Ga. – December 3, 2004 – In a 25-game season, sooner or later a team is going to need some late-game heroics. The West Georgia Braves needed just that Friday afternoon in at the VSU Classic and got it in a 54-53 win over Florida Gulf Coast.

With 10 minutes left in the game, the Braves trailed by 11, but fought their way back into the contest on the back of Tai Ellis. The junior led the way for West Georgia on the afternoon with 18 points.

But with under a minute to play, the Braves trailed by a point and needed a heroic moment. The hero came in the form of point guard Natasha Liggins, whose runner in the lane found the bottom of the net and gave UWG a 54-53 lead.

Florida Gulf Coast attempted a last second shot, but fell short.

West Georgia’s record improves to 5-2 on the year with the win. The Braves play again tomorrow at 2 p.m., with Eckerd as the opponent.

Braves close VSU classic with victory

Valdosta, Ga. – December 4, 2004 – The West Georgia Braves, one day after winning a nailbiter with Florida Gulf Coast, had an easier time with Eckerd on the second day of the VSU Classic. The Braves led wire-to-wire and collected their sixth win with a 66-43 victory.

Tai Ellis continued her stellar weekend play with 19 points to lead West Georgia on the afternoon. Friday’s hero, Natasha Liggins, was also big on the afternoon. The junior point guard had 11 points and dished out nine assists in the game.

The Braves’ next game is a home rematch with Georgia College and State University next Saturday night at 5:30 p.m.

Liggins earns GSC weekly honors

Carrollton, Ga. – December 9, 2004 – A game winning shot and an overall solid week has netted West Georgia point guard Natasha Liggins with the Braves’ first Player of the Week award of the 2004-05 season. The awards were announced late Tuesday night by Gulf South Conference officials.

Liggins was the most consistent player in West Georgia’s three wins last week, included a huge win over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday at Valdosta’s Guesthouse Inn Classic.

With the Braves down 11 in the second half, the junior from Dayton, Ohio, engineered a comeback, culminating with the game-winner with 16 seconds to play in a 54-53 win.

Liggins also got into the Christmas spirit last week, giving out 7.3 assists per game. She and the Braves take on Georgia College and State Saturday night at 5:30 p.m.

GCSU outraces Braves in Carrollton

Carrollton, Ga. – December 11, 2004 – The West Georgia Braves’ went into Saturday’s rematch with #19 Georgia College and State University looking for redemption. Instead, the Braves found a reminder of the opener as the Lady Bobcats ruined the Christmas send-off, handing the Braves a 65-47 loss.

West Georgia came out firing, building a 6-3 lead in the first 1:32. But the Lady Bobcats came right back, taking a 16-9 lead at the 13:17 point.

The Braves came back, pulling to within four twice before the 12 minute mark, but that was as close as UWG would get the rest of the evening. GCSU turned up the pressure, forcing 18 first-half turnovers in building a 38-29 halftime lead.

The lead contiued to building, as the Braves’ assist-turnover ratio dwindled. West Georgia had nine assists to 33 turnovers. The Braves shot just 28 percent on the night compared to the Lady Bobcats’ 40 percent and were outrebounded 45-31.

Two Braves scored in double figures on the night, led by Nikki Blakely with 14. Milan Cary added 10.

The loss drops West Georgia to 6-3 on the season and GCSU moves to 7-1 on the year. Next up for the Braves is a trip to Kennesaw State Monday night at 6:00 p.m.

Women’s Athletic Spotlight – Milan Cary

Carrollton, Ga. – December 13, 2004 – To teams in the world of collegiate basketball, a ranking, or lack thereof in West Georgia’s case, can be a blessing or a curse, a bullseye or “bulletin-board” material. West Georgia senior guard Milan Cary just goes out and plays her game without worrying about a ranking.

“Coach Roden told us we were not ranked,” Cary explained. “But that’s not important to me and our team, especially after the way we started and ended the season last year.”

The 2004-05 Braves have already done something in nine games that last year’s squad took 20 games to do. That is to win six games. The Braves were 1-8 after nine games last year, and are 6-3 this season.

Cary is a part of the West Georgia backcourt that is the main cog in the Braves’ success thus far this year. The trio of Tai Ellis, Natasah Liggins and Cary are averaging 36 points per game, more than half of the team’s average.

“I am very thankful to have Nikki Blakely, Tai, Tabatha Washington, Natasha , and the rest of the girls,” Cary said. “Our team this year is solid at every position, especially our backcourt.”

But despite the strong play from the backcourt, wings like Blakely can take pressure off of he guards. Blakely has hit 11 from beyond the arc, which opens up the floor for Cary and the others to drive and shoot.

“It is a great feeling that I know there are several teammates that have my back when I am having an off night,” Cary shared. “It’s like every night someone different is stepping up.”

Last season, Cary led the Braves in scoring 12 times and had much of the offensive load on her shoulders. This year, four different players have been the scoring leader and rarely is the leader the same two night’s in a row.

Having a team lthat performs like that in tough non-conference play should help West Georiga improve on last season’s 6-8 conference record.

“Playing teams like GCSU and Kennesaw push us to our limits,” Cary explained, “those types of teams reveal our weaknesses. Weaknesses that we want fixed come conference time.”

With an All-Conference player like Cary leading the way, the sky is the limit for the 2004-05 Braves.

Kennesaw unkind to Braves

Carrollton, Ga. – December 14, 2004 – The West Georgia Braves were rude hosts, beating Kennesaw State 73-60 in the two teams’ first meeting this season. The Lady Owls returned the favor Monday night, best the Braves 86-79 in Kennnesaw.

The game started quick, with Tai Ellis stealing the opening tip and driving for an uncontested layup four seconds into the game. The junior guard was a jack of all trades on the night, collecting 29 points on a 9-of-14 shooting effort. She was perfect behind the arc and at the charitly stripe, going 2-for-2 and 9-for-9, respectively.

But the Braves collectively hit just one other three-pointer on the night, compared to five from the Lady Owls, the six points ending up to be the difference in the game. Both teams shot the ball well, with the Braves shooting 48 percent and Kennesaw hitting at a 41 percent clip.

There were four ties in the first five minutes of the contest, but at the 15:29 point in the first half, Kennesaw’s Leslie Smith hit a free throw to give the Lady Owls a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the game.

The Braves pulled to within six late in the second half, but at that point, a free-throw exhibition began. 27 of the game’s 61 free-throws came in the final 10 minutes of the contest.

Three Braves scored in double figures on the night, With Milan Cary adding 18 and Natasha Liggins contributing 12.

Next up for West Georgia is another Peach Belt rematch, this time with Clayton State. The game is in Morrow Friday night at 5:30 p.m.

A record night records revenge

Carrollton, Ga. – December 17, 2004 – One look at the stat sheet says it all. 38 points. 10 rebounds. The night Tai Ellis Friday night was one unlike any seen at West Georgia in recent years. Her gargantuan offensive display was the main cog as UWG returned the favor to Clayton State, beating the Lady Lakers 74-69 in Morrow.

“That’s a night that you haven’t seen here in a long time,” Roden said. “I don’t remember 38 points and 10 rebounds happening while I’ve been here.”

What made the effort even more sweet was that Ellis spearheaded a major comeback effort in the contest. CCSU jumped out to a 19-5 lead in the first 10 minutes and it looked as though things were headed in the same direction as when Clayton visited Carrollton just after Thanksgiving. In that contest, the Lady Lakers blasted the Braves 79-59.

But Ellis and West Georgia would have none of that, and the Braves mounted a comeback. West Georgia took its first lead on basket by Ellis with 1:58 remaining. Clayton State answered with two three-pointers in the final minute of the half, the second one by junior Cynthia Conseil, giving the Lakers a three-point lead at halftime, 32-29. this all came after an 11-0 UWG run midway through the first half.

Clayton went on another early tear in the second period, only to have West Georgia come back and take the lead with 7:04 to play in the contest. It was a lead that the Braves would hold the rest of the contest. With 36 seconds left, Jasmine Patterson hit a three-pointer to pull the Lady lakers to within three at 66-63, but Ellis hit 9-of-10 free throws in the final minute to seal the road victory.

Ellis’ 38 points are the most by a West Georgia player on record since Gina Flowers scored 52 for the West Georgia record against Miles College in 1991-92. It breaks her single-game high of 29 that she had two years ago against Mississippi-University for Women. Natasha Liggins was the only other Brave in double figures with 15 and seven assists.

As a team, West Georgia was on fire in the second half, shooting 70 percent en route to a 57 percent shooting night. Ellis also hit 18-of-19 from the line on the evening. Her 18 free throws are a school record and 19 attempts ties the record.

Patterson had a big night as well for Clayton, scoring 28 with seven rebounds to the the Lady Lakers.

The Braves head into the Holiday Break with a 7-4 record. Clayton is now 6-3. Next up for West Georgia is the first game of 2005, a January 2 matchup with Columbus State in Carrollton.

Mapp, Ellis earn weekly conference honors

Carrollton, GA – December 21, 2005 – Big performances a week ago have translated into honors for a pair of West Georgia Braves basketball stars. Women’s star Tai Ellis and men’s sharpshooter Majestic Mapp were Tuesday named Gulf South Conference East Division Players of the Week for their respective genders. Both had huge numbers that led to their honors.

For Ellis, her honors came with one mega-performance: a 38-point, 10-rebound effort in Friday¹s 74-69 win at Clayton State. Her efforts were instrumental in UWG erasing an early, 19-5 deficit. Also, the win avenged a 79-59 home loss to Clayton State on November 27.

Ellis’ offensive explosion was the most impressive for a West Georgia player in over a decade. Her 38 points marked the most in a single game for a Braves player since Gina Flowers drained 52 in a game vs. Miles during the 1991-92 season.

The award for Ellis was the second of the season for the Braves’ women.

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