By CHRIS WHITAKER
Georgia Southwestern had runs of 9-1 and 14-2 to start each half as the Lady Hurricanes dominated Albany State in a 70-59 win to open the new season Monday evening in the Storm Dome.
GSW led by as many as 28 in the second half before the Lady Rams closed the gap in the final minutes of the game.
"I think it's so funny, the way we ended, it felt like we lost the game," said coach Kelly Britsky. "Getting on top early definitely helped our confidence. I don't think we ever relinquished the lead. A lot of people scored tonight, and I think that shows a little more depth."
Whitley Wiltz, who broke her nose in practice about 2 1/2 weeks ago, led GSW with game-highs of 12 points and eight rebounds, and Terra Branch scored 10 and made three steals.
"Proud of Whitley - that mask has given her fits," said Britsky. "Proud of her stepping up as well as Terra. It was positive all the way around tonight. The biggest thing I was disappointed in was we were outrebounded by 10 (46-36). We pride ourselves on rebounding, and we definitely didn't do that tonight."
Jessica Bivins hit the first field goal of the season, a 3-pointer, as the Lady Hurricanes went into halftime with a 36-20 lead.
GSW forced 23 of Albany State's 41 turnovers in the first half and held it to 29 percent shooting in the half. GSW had 26 turnovers of its own in the game.
"We mixed our defenses up; we were running three different ones," said Britksy. "That caused a lot of their heartaches because they were not sure what we were in at times. We threw in trapping, and that took the advantage toward us."
Jonneshia Pineda and LaTonyah Bentley each scored seven points off the bench.
Britsky said the team has to get the third five playing better, as that's when the Lady Rams made their run at the end of the game.
"We want our weakest link to be strong. We're getting there, but not there yet," she said.
Rosetta Daniels led Albany State with 12 points off the bench.
"It's good to get the first win," said Britsky. "We're excited about the competition level; sometimes those first games are too easy. Hopefully we can start a rivalry with Albany State."
The Lady Hurricanes are back in action Friday and Saturday at the 2009 Saint Leo University Tournament. They play the hosts, Saint Leo, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and against Florida Southern at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
PICTURED: Terra Branch
PHOTO BY: Chris Fenn