“Hurry up,” commanded someone as the Gold Nuggets cut the net after their 75-68 win against 15 ranked Talledega College to become the Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference champions.
However, the Nuggets took their time—as well they should. With smiles and cheers only seen when a team wins a championship, they climbed one-by-one up the ladder, scissors held precariously through fingers that had just finished dribbling and shooting. They didn’t seem to hear the order.
As well—it’s not like you can hurry greatness.
“I think the biggest moment [of the season] came last weekend when we were able to win our conference championship in here,” said the Nuggets’ head coach, Bo Browder.
The Nuggets finished their season 22-11. They were 12-2 at home, 8-7 on the road, and 2-2 on neutral courts. In the GCAC, they were 7-5, winning four games at home and three away. Their GCAC home losses came from Talledega and Dillard, two teams they beat in the GCAC tournament.
From the beginning of the season, the Nuggets were destined to win. Through their first 12 games, the Nuggets went 10-2. And then they dropped three straight before picking up the speed once again and winning the next four. Browder was not surprised. “In the past four or five years, it’s always been like we play our best basketball at the end of the year,” Browder said. “It’s just like we start off playing well, then we’ll start to struggle, and then the last three weeks we kind of get this extra kick. I was kind of feeling that extra kick at the end of this year.”
Browder added there were a lot of ups and downs this season, but, in the end, they ended up playing well.
One of the major keys to their successful season was their improvement on defense and offense. Browder admitted their defense improved a lot, and even added that last season, he would’ve given the Nuggets a ‘C’ as opposed to the B+ they moved up to this year. On the opposite side of the court, Browder admitted the Nuggets offensive struggles last year, but this year he felt good about the way the ball moved at times. Another reason their offense improved was the addition of more scorers on this year’s team, which allowed them to win more close games. Out of their 33 games overall, the Nuggets had 10 games in which they won or loss by five points or less, 7 of which they won. One of those wins came against Our Lady of the Lake University, which also serves as one of the biggest moments of their season, according to Browder. On Nov. 14, the Nuggets beat OLOL 91-86 in an overtime win. Whitney Gathright led the team 33 points, Donyeah Mayfield had 19, Trana Hopkins had 15 and Alesha Smith had 11. That was Gathright’s career high, and the 91 points were the most the Nuggets scored this season.
“We played them four years straight,” Browder said, “and we never beat them. We would always play close games, go into overtime, and lose by one, two to them. When we beat them in overtime, that was an exciting moment.” Another big moment for the Nuggets was when they beat Shawnee State at the Nuggets’ Thanksgiving classic, 74-70. They were ranked number four in the country at that time.Big moments aside, Browder will have to say good-bye to six seniors that helped shape the season.
Leaving are Gathright; Amara Person-Hampton; Emoni Harvey; Hopkins; Mayfield and Smith. Browder and staff will have to fill in the holes left by those six.
“Recruitment is going pretty good. I mean, I’m excited about recruitment,” Browder said. So far, the Nuggets have an early signee, Maya Trance, that Browder said will come in and replace Gathright. They have signed another good guard from Texas. Browder also said there were a couple of post players they have the chance to bring in.
“Things are looking up on the recruitment part of the game,” Browder said. However, despite the importance of recruitment, Browder has something else on his mind for now—beating the eighth ranked Campbellsville March 16 in the NAIA tournament. “We’re pretty much familiar with them,” Browder said. “We played them two years ago in the Sweet Sixteen and ended up losing by five points. So we’re pretty much familiar with them, and they’re familiar with us.”
The Nuggets will have played the Lady Tigers for three consecutive years after they tip off against them 8:30 a.m on Wednesday to lead the 32-game tournament. In the 2014 tournament, the Lady Tigers defeated the Nuggets 59-55. In the 2014-2015 season opener, the beat the Nuggets 74-62. “It should be an exciting game,” Browder said. “It’s a good match-up for both teams because we kind of know each other, and we just gotta figure it out.” Browder said he liked their chances—if the Nuggets make shots.