The Wolves (19-7, 6-6 GSC) fell, 60-57, Thursday night in their final road game of the regular season at West Florida, putting themselves in a three-way tie for third place with the Argos and North Alabama.
And as much as UWG men’s basketball coach Michael Cooney would like to beat the rival Blazers, he noted that getting the league win is all that matters right now.
“It’s a rivalry game. Very important to our program, our university, the alumni and the community, but more importantly, it’s a win that gets us to 20 wins. It gets us another Division II win, which we’re badly needing now. We’ve suffered four setbacks out of the last five — albeit all close, hard nail-biters — you know, all tough games. But we need to post a win. Badly,” Cooney said.
A furious comeback Thursday night came up three points short, and the Wolves have another tough task in the Blazers, who West Georgia beat, 77-76, in Valdosta earlier in the year.
In the first meeting between the teams, Da’Ron Sims put up a career-high 34 points, as UWG overcame an early eight-point deficit and another five-point deficit late in the second half to get the win.
Cooney said the Blazers were playing short-handed that game, but are back to full strength right now, which makes them a scary ball club.
“We played them without two guys — the 6-9 kid [Josh Sparks], who is back in the lineup, and then Tristan Steele. They’re playing very well. They got a win at West [Alabama on Thursday] and had a tough loss at Christian Brothers. They’re just really a good offensive team, a lot like West Florida,” Cooney said.
The Blazers (10-13, 3-9) need to win their last two games of the regular season and get some help with West Alabama losses to move out of the seventh spot in the conference.
Sidney Harris leads VSU with 14.9 points per game, while Steele, Will Alston and Michale Panaggio each average just over 11 points an outing.
The Wolves’ loss to West Florida on Thursday night all but secured the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament to the Lady Argos, while West Georgia could possibly be looking at the seventh seed in the tourney.
West Georgia (9-14, 4-8) will need wins in the final two games of the regular season to work their way up in the standings, starting with Valdosta State today at 5:30 p.m.
The Lady Blazers (18-6, 8-4) are coming off an overtime loss at home to West Alabama that snapped a three-game winning streak and will finish up the season on the road next week against West Florida.
Brittany Ferguson leads VSU with 17.3 points a game and Sczeny Hartry adds another 11.2 points per game.
For the Wolves, Shunice Hardy continues to dominate defenses, as she had her sixth game with at least 20 points Thursday, scoring a game-high 21 against UWF. Over the past few games, Hardy has been getting some offensive help.
Fellow senior Krystal Delph added 15 points in UWG’s win against Christian Brothers and Breonna Mosley scored 14 in Thursday’s loss.
The first meeting between the teams was won by the Lady Blazers, 63-46.
The Wolves (2-2) wrap up their season-opening homestand this weekend with a three-game series against Tiffin (Ohio), starting with a noon doubleheader on Saturday and a single game Sunday at 1 p.m.
The season started with a bang for UWG, winning its season opener, 13-5, but since then the bats have cooled off, as the Wolves have averaged just under four runs a game in the past three and were unable to get the tying run home from third base in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 3-2 setback to North Georgia.
The pitching has been solid for West Georgia, as it holds a 2.91 team ERA early in the season. Team ace Max Aeschlimann picked up the loss Thursday, but had a quality outing in his second start for UWG.
If UWG coach Skip Fite follows his rotation from the opening weekend, Cody Skinner would take the mound in Game 1 Saturday. Skinner pitched seven innings, giving up just one run on six his with seven strikeouts in the Wolves’ 5-1 win against Augusta State last weekend. Seth McClure is the other Wolf to start a game this season, a 5-4 loss.
Stuart Drew leads the UWG offense early with a .385 average, while Evan Hester and Garrett May lead the team with four RBI each. Andy Marinelli has hit the only home run for the Wolves so far this season, a solo shot in the first inning Thursday.
The Wolves suffered a pair of setbacks on the opening day of the Charger Chillout in Decatur, Ala., on Friday — a 9-1 loss to Wayne State and a 6-2 decision to Northern Kentucky.
In the opener, Wayne State came out swinging, busting out 13 hits for the five-inning victory. West Georgia starter Antoinette Diaz proved to be the tough-luck lose after getting touched for five runs in 2.1 innings, only one of which was earned behind three West Georgia errors through three innings.
Offensively, the Wolves got five hits, with center fielder Jen Culberson going 2-for-3.
In the second game, Northern Kentucky led just 3-2 entering the seventh inning, but put up a three-spot in the frame to put the game away.
West Georgia got six hits in the nightcap, with designated player Imani Cabel going 3-for-3 with a run scored, while Central High School product Nicole Yancey was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and two RBI.
West Georgia continues action at the Chillout today, with a 12:30 p.m. game against Ohio Dominican and a 2:30 p.m. contest against Barry.