Lady Chargers claim GCAA Champion title to close season


Brandon Dyer

Lady Chargers celebrate their district championship win over Spartanburg Methodist on Mar. 6, 2022.

Brandon Dyer, Sports Editor & Podcast Host

(Art by Bree Messenger)

On Feb. 28, the GHC women’s basketball team secured their spot in the NJCAA National Tournament by defeating the South Georgia Technical College Lady Jets, winning the GCAA women’s basketball championship.  

The Lady Chargers found themselves against their rivals after an 86-59 victory in the GCAA playoffs. This would be the fourth straight year that the two teams would meet in the GCAA Championship game, with the Lady Jets coming out on top in each of the last three. 

In the 2020 championship game, the Lady Chargers pulled out to a 23-point lead but watched on as they squandered it and would go on to lose. 

Last season, the Lady Chargers held a three-point lead in the final seconds of the GCAA Championship before the Lady Jets tied the game by knocking down a three-pointer and forcing overtime. The Lady Chargers ultimately lost the game in overtime. 

Coach Saxton said the losses made her team hungrier and that she was impressed with how the team responded to it. 

Guard Naz Oget attempts to put up a layup against Spartanburg Methodist in their matchup on Mar. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brandon Dyer)

A quick 27-10 lead for the Lady Chargers showed the Lady Jets that they knew how to defeat them, they just had to hold on to the lead. 

Three quarters of back-and-forth basketball went by and when the final buzzer sounded, the Lady Chargers claimed their first GCAA Championship since 2016, finally getting over the obstacle that had been in their way for five years. 

“I can’t express how happy I am. It’s great and an awesome feeling, but I didn’t feel like at any time during the season that this team couldn’t do it. If any team was going to do it, I feel like it was this one,” Saxton said.  

Throughout the regular season, the Lady Chargers were ranked and highly sought after by the NJCAA, as they were coming off a season in which they received a bid for the national tournament.  

Expectations were high for the Lady Chargers entering the season as they entered the year ranked number 12 in the NJCAA preseason poll. 

With six of the most productive players from last season returning, including last year’s GCAA Player of the Year Jashanti Simmons, assistant coach NaeNae Saxton said that she knew that this team would be a special one. 

“They have big heart and they work harder than any team that I’ve seen and they bought into the game plan that coach Harrell had for them so they’re ‘roll with the punches’ kind of girls,” Saxton said on her appearance on the Post Buzzer podcast

The Lady Chargers bench celebrates late in their game against Spartanburg Methodist on Mar. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brandon Dyer)

Before the GCAA playoffs started, several Lady Chargers picked up awards for their performances in the regular season: Jashanti Simmons, Player of the Year, head coach Brandan Harrell, Coach of the Year, Jada Alston, Defensive Player of the Year. 

The Lady Chargers brought in Rita Kun, Naz Oget, JeNee Edwards and Jamariah Turner in the offseason to add depth to the team. 

Oget would go on to be one of the leading scorers for the Lady Chargers as the season went on, averaging eight points per game while playing the backup point guard role to Sandra Lin, which Oget said was something she was thankful for. 

“It just feels good, she’s a really good player and it’s good to see her playing before me and I keep trying to push myself like her,” Oget said. 

The season tipped off for the Lady Chargers after months of conditioning, resulting in a win against Walters State Community College in the Senators Tip Off Classic. 

After winning both of their games in that tournament, the Lady Chargers were invited to the WER Invitational, where they lost both games against Gulf State Coast College and Chipola College, who was ranked as the second-best team in the NJCAA at the time they played. The Lady Chargers were able to get some eyes put on them against Chipola College as they took them into double overtime in the game. 

What happened next would be something that the Lady Chargers had never been able to achieve: a 26-game winning streak. 

Driving to the rim, Lady Charger forward Rita Kun tries to add on to their lead late in their game against Spartanburg Methodist on Mar. 6, 2022. (Photo by Brandon Dyer)

During the winning streak, the Lady Chargers won all but one game by double-digits, most of them being GCAA conference opponents. 

Crystal Corley proved to be a force to be reckoned with, having a breakout season for the Lady Chargers, averaging almost a double-double for the season and stepping up into a leadership role. 

Working hard, believing in herself and knowing that it was a possibility that she could have a breakout season is what Corley said pushed her to be her best this season. 

“Having younger teammates, they’re new to everything that we do so they follow your lead and you just want to make a good example for them,” Corley said. 

The Lady Chargers found themselves in the top five rankings in the NJCAA, and that’s where they stayed the rest of the season. 

Their 26-2 regular season record is the highest win total in Lady Chargers history and they finished the season undefeated in conference play. 

Multiple Lady Chargers were put on the All-Region team, including Simmons, Alston and Sasha Shishkina. 

A district championship win against Spartanburg Methodist on Mar. 5 secured the Lady Chargers spot as a top three seed in the NJCAA National Tournament.