In Sunday's News-Times, I previewed the county's public school girls hoops season. Now, lets take a look at our two private school squads: Augusta Christian Schools and Augusta Preparatory Day School.
The Lady Lions are coming off a solid season, which featured 17 wins, but AC graduated eight seniors. Meanwhile, the Lady Cavaliers will try and improve on last season's 14-11 record.
Augusta Christian (17-12 in 2000-01) - Coach Jodie Price begins her fourth season with the Lady Lions. She returns two starters from last year's team - senior guard Melissa Wright and junior wing Crystin Cromer will be the team leaders, but Price will need to find them some help if AC plans to make a return trip to the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA state playoffs.
Augusta Prep (14-11 in 2000-2001) - Coach Kevin Furtado enters his second year at Augusta Prep, where he will witness a youth movement this fall with seven freshmen on the roster.
Furtado does have two key returnees in leading scorer Rebecca Smith (5-5, guard/forward) and senior point guard Anna Alexander, who will be counted on to run the team. Furtado also expects senior forward Melissa Appleton and freshman Abby Alexander to step in and contribute. Abby Alexander will be out of the area's top ninth graders this season.
With so much inexperience, the Cavaliers may struggle a little early, but Coach Furtado hopes that they will be ready when the region tournament rolls around. Augusta Prep will be tested at home Wednesday, as three-time defending GISA AA State champ Gatewood visits Boardman Gymnasium.
Over the last few years Columbia County has had a incredible number of kids sign college scholarships, and 2001-02 will be no different.
As the early signing period for spring sports began, Greenbrier High School had a flurry of signings.
Robert Davis, the Pack's starting catcher a year ago, signed with Virginia Tech after transferring to Greenbrier prior to the 2000-01 season. Davis took over at catcher and really blossomed for the Pack late in the year, and throughout the playoffs Davis was one of their top clutch hitters. Davis is from Virginia and played Summer league ball there this year.
Other Greenbrier signings: Erica Johnson (softball). Johnson had helped build Greenbrier into one of the state's top softball programs and next year she'll try to do the same for Georgia Southern. However, before she goes to Statesboro, coach Garrett Black will count on his talented shortstop to give the Lady Pack some punch in basketball - Johnson is Greenbrier's starting point guard.
Lindsey Sutherland (volleyball/track). Sutherland is a hard-working, intelligent athlete who is even better in the classroom than she is on the track or court. She has signed to play two sports at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Lindsey is also one of Greenbrier's top players in basketball.
Lindsay Jones (Rowing). Although the county is not known as a hotbed for young rowing talent, Jones is obviously gifted. That's why the University of Tennessee signed her to a rowing scholarship last week.
Bratton having breakout year
Former Lakeside standout Brian Bratton is having a special year as a red-shirt freshman for the Furman University football team. Bratton leads the nation in kick returns, with an eye-popping 37.2 yards per return. His three touchdown returns also is tops in all of college football.
Bratton has 521 yards on 14 returns for the Paladins this season. He also has two receptions for 44 yards and has rushed three times for 20 yards.
In Furman's biggest win of the year, a 28-22 victory over Appalachian State, Bratton took the opening kickoff back 100 yards. Also, Bratton helped seal a victory over a pretty good Wofford team when his 100 yard return to open the second half put the Paladins up 38-7 and put the game out of reach.
Thanks in part to Bratton's exploits, Furman is ranked No. 4 nationally in Division I-AA. The Paladins have 9-2 record of 9-2 overall and are 7-1 in the very tough Southern Conference. This Saturday the Paladins host Western Kentucky (8-3) in Greenville, S.C.
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