Originally created 03/27/04

Success might pay off for Jags



With Augusta State ending a record-setting campaign, Lady Jaguars coach Greg Wilson is hoping to reap the rewards with a stellar recruiting class.

"I would hope it would get us on the radar screens for some kids looking for a place to go," Wilson said. "I know some kids look at polls.

"I hope the blue-chippers will now call us."

The Augusta State women ended the season with a 24-8 record, a South Atlantic Region championship and a Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight appearance. The Lady Jaguars won 43 games the past two seasons and made two consecutive Division II Tournament appearances.

Most likely, Augusta State will end the year nationally ranked for the first time. The No. 19-ranked Lady Jaguars lost to No. 5 Merrimack, 76-68, in the national quarterfinals - two games from a national championship - Wednesday in St. Joseph, Mo.

"It's the achievement of sustained success we've been after for several years," Wilson said. "The experience has been invaluable to the kids who've been here. The magnanimity of the moment may not sink in until May or June."

Wilson now has the task of replacing guards Ernesia Wideman and Alshaa' Hodges and forward Shundra Johnson - a trio of seniors who represented 54 percent of the team's offense and 41 percent of its rebounding.

"Obviously, with the people we're losing we'll probably take a couple of steps back," Wilson said.

The loss of the senior trio opens up three scholarships, but Augusta State might end up having more. Forward Lejla Nicevic, who missed all of this past season, is recovering slowly from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Her status is uncertain for next season, as well as the status of forward Leighla Holder, who tore her ACL after the fifth game of the season.

Junior forwards Cheryl Audain and Latoya Renwrick are the lone returning starters. Junior guard Brandi Hollingsworth, the team's top 3-point shooter, is also expected back.

Augusta State's main needs are at point guard, small forward, power forward and center. Wilson said he expects to sign two high school players, along with two to four junior college players, to fill those positions.

Finals Set

No. 2 Drury (36-1) will face No. 3 California (Pa.) (34-1) in the NCAA Division II Women's championship game at 6 p.m. today on ESPN2. Drury defeated Henderson State, 82-70, in the semifinals, while California (Pa.) pounded Merrimack, 89-65.

The No. 6-ranked Kennesaw State men will face No. 13 Southern Indiana (28-6) in the Division II Men's championship game at 1 p.m. today on CBS. The Owls (34-4), who defeated Humboldt State, 81-67, in the semifinals, are the first Peach Belt Conference team to appear on live national television.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.