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Lewis sees similarities between CU, Coastal Georgia
Mar 14, 2013 4:15 pm
Lady Bulldogs face Mariners in NAIA opener today
By Andy Reed
While Cumberland's women look to extend their history-making season, Coastal Georgia has already made some history of its own.
The Mariners only began playing basketball last season, and they've reached the 33rd annual NAIA Women's Basketball National Championships in just their second year.
"Second-year program: They've done a pretty good job, don't you think?" Cumberland coach Jeremy Lewis asked rhetorically even while his Lady Bulldogs are on a record-shattering 30-2 season of their own.
"They got good players. There's a good reason they're 24-8. They're long and they're athletic. They're balanced."
The teams will tip off at around 5:15 p.m. CDT today at the Frankfort [Ky.] Convention Center. And though the Mariners, from Brunswick, Ga., [their team picture was taken on the beach] are in their first NAIAs, and the Lady Bulldogs are in their first tournament since a run to the 2007 finals in Jackson, Lewis sees a lot of similarities in the teams.
"They're similar to us as a basketball team," said Lewis, in his fourth season as Lady Bulldogs coach after a trip to the nationals as a player and two more as an assistant coach. "They have good size at the wing and good size at the forwards. That makes for an intriguing matchup.
"They've got good depth. I think it's going to be a good basketball game. It's a good matchup."
Senior Crystal Chaney, a 6-foot-1 forward, leads Coastal Georgia with 11.8 points per game. Senior post Maria Marshall [6-1] isn't far behind with 10.1 points per game to go with a team-high 8.8 rebounds and 58 blocks. Sophomore point guard Sequoya Aldridge had 50 steals while junior point Madel Madden leads the Mariners in assists with 2.8 coming off the bench. Sophomore guard Olivia Melvin is the top three-point shooter, also off the bench.
Cumberland is led by NAIA honorable mention All-American Jessica Pace. The senior from Hillsboro High in Nashville leads the Lady Bulldogs with 12.8 points and eight rebounds per game and is second in assists with 2.2, trailing only point guard Briannica Tye's 3.5 per outing.
Nearly a week after the pairings were released, Lewis said he's ready to get the game on.
"You spend the whole season building tendencies in your basketball team," he said. "You hope your tendencies are better than their tendencies. We'll find out Thursday."
The Mariners stopped off in Knoxville on their way to Kentucky to practice at UT's Thompson-Boling Arena, a facility much larger than the Frankfort Convention Center, where the Lady Bulldogs just won the Mid-South Conference championship 10 days ago.
"I do feel good about the fact we've already played in this facility and had success here," Lewis said.
Live video streaming is available for the first 30 games of the tournament through NeuLion. An all-tournament pass good for the 30 games is available for $29.95, while a single-day pass can be purchased for $9:95. For more information and/or to make a purchase, visit www.naia.org.