During the Augusta Christian football team's charge to the South Carolina Independent Schools Association State Championship, assistant football coach Marty Griffin was as thrilled with the team's success as anyone else.
However, when the season ended and assistant football coach Griffin turned in to head boy's basketball coach Griffin, he found himself facing a grim reality.
The football season ended Friday, and the Lions first basketball game was the following Tuesday.
"I had four varsity basketball players who didn't play football. That's it," Griffin said. "We haven't been able to do anything."
Less than 24 hours after the football team won the SCISA AAA State Championship, seven football players changed into basketball players overnight for a quick Saturday practice.
With only two days of practice under their belts, the Lions dove headlong into the regular season with a home game Tuesday night against Alleluia Community School, with boys and girls winning both games.
Griffin was optimistic about the late start.
"In a way it has some advantages," he said. "It forces you to peak later in the season."
Griffin admitted that the team wasn't in game shape for the season opener, but with the lineup in this year's squad, the chances of a successful season look good for the late-starting Lions.
After a 13-14 season last year, Augusta Christian loses three starting seniors. Despite the loss, Griffin said the team has a host of younger players ready and able to take the spotlight.
"We have seven guys who played a lot of minutes last year," Griffin said. "By the time region play comes around we're going to be fine."
The team does return its leading scorer, Josh Whitaker. Sophomore long-distance shooter Nolan Belcher, an All-Region sixth man as a freshman, also returns and will join point guard Kyle Redd, the team's "floor general" according to Griffin, to make up the starting back court.
Wayne House and Fred Austin also will contribute to the scoring threat for the Lions.
Girl's basketball coach Keith Walton has had a little more time to ready his Lady Lions for the 2005 campaign.
Practices began Nov. 1 for a girl's squad that has the potential to reach deep into the postseason in only their second year in SICSA.
"The style of basketball was extremely different when we first came in," Walton said of the school's swap from the Georgia Independent Schools Association to their South Carolina counterpart last year. "It's more physical and more up-tempo."
Still, the Lady Lions finished at 16-10 last season, third in their region and were knocked out of the state playoffs by the eventual state champions.
This season, the girls are looking to go farther.
"We're returning our entire nucleus," Walton said. "This year the only team that can beat us is ourselves."
Part of that nucleus includes last season's leading scorer, Jordan Little. After averaging 15 points per game in the 2004-05 season, the senior has her eyes set on reaching the college level with an even better 2005-06 performance.
Fellow senior Sarah Beth McKinney, last season's leading rebounder with 13 boards per game, also returns to an improved Augusta Christian lineup.
Walton said the improvement is a result of an active offseason when many of the girls took on area public schools, including Richmond Academy, Greenbrier, Harlem, Cross Creek and Hephzibah, in summer league ball.
"That's going to help a lot," Walton said. "They saw stronger competition this summer."
The Lions and Lady Lions will next suit up Dec. 1-3 for the Garden City Classic. Both teams will play host to Briarwood on Thursday in the tournament's opening round.
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