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GC teams open season away from home

By DUSTIN KENT 
News Herald Assistant Sports Editor 

Posted Nov 1, 2018 at 8:02 PM

It may be another month before the Gulf Coast women’s and men’s basketball teams get to play on their home court, but the 2018-19 season tips off Friday nonetheless, with both squads in action out west.

 

The Lady Commodores, who are ranked No. 3 in the nation and No. 2 in the state, open with Daytona State at Northwest Florida State College at 3:30 p.m., with the Gulf Coast men playing in Pensacola against Coastal Alabama-Bay Minette at 3 p.m., in the Pensacola State Classic.

 

It’s the first action against live competition for either GC squad since jamborees in the first week of October. Ensuing jamborees were canceled in the wake of Hurricane Michael, and the teams resumed practicing last week at varying locations. Gulf Coast’s men practiced at Vernon High School and South Walton High School, while the women practiced at Walton, South Walton, and Freeport.

 

Both squads were back in the Billy Harrison Field House for their first full practices in their home gym Thursday, and each coach expressed excitement about finally getting to start their seasons after a tumultuous few weeks.

 

“We’ve had some pretty challenging times here in the last month, really two months for us,” Lady Commodores coach Roonie Scovel said, referencing the loss of sophomore forward Keshawn Johnson in a fatal car accident in September. “Our young ladies started September on a bad note, and for a storm to hit us a month later has really been quite the experience for these ladies. Just the opportunity to play tomorrow is exciting, to do something positive after so much negative has happened. It’s time to play.

Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, it’s exciting to have a chance to play.”

 

Gulf Coast men’s coach Jay Powell said he also was unsure of how well his team would play this weekend given the lack of practice time but that the Commodores’ youth may serve as an advantage in this case.

 

“I know the men are excited to play and they’re ready to go out there and compete against another team,” he said. “It probably helps us a little bit that we have nine freshmen because they’re maybe not quite as aware of where we could be or should be if we had three more weeks of practice. They definitely have a lot of confidence about themselves and I’m excited about coaching them. It’s just good to get back out there and have a basketball game.”

 

The GC men will also play Saturday in Pensacola against Action Sports Academy. The Lady Commodores will play just once this weekend before returning to action Nov. 9-10 against Palm Beach and Vincennes at Northwest Florida State in what was originally scheduled as the Panama City Beach Gulf Coast Classic to be played at the Billy Harrison Field House.

 

Both teams will spend the majority of the first month of the season away from home, if not longer, with a Nov. 27 doubleheader against L.B. Wallace the first scheduled home games that haven’t as of yet been moved. It’s far from ideal to go at least a month to start the year without playing in your own gym in front of your own fans, but Powell said it was also far from his greatest concern.

“I’m not trying to be disingenuous about this at all and it’s not coach-speak, but I have not been really mindful or concerned with where our games are at all,” he said. “I’ve just been very concerned about getting our guys back and expediting our progress. No matter who or where we play, I have to get them ready. I’m so thankful to be back to playing and coaching basketball that where the games are taking place really doesn’t even matter to me.”

 

Losing three weeks of practice time in fall camp is difficult to overcome even for teams as talented and experienced as the Lady Commodores, though Scovel said that she believes everything her players have endured this offseason has made them tougher and brought them closer together.

 

“It’s been really difficult, but at the same time these young ladies have been very resilient,” she said. “They’ve handled everything with tremendous maturity to this point. You always do things to try to build character and chemistry and have team bonding. We certainly didn’t have to go very far to find those experiences this year. They happened right in front of us and we’ve dealt with them and certainly learned some hard life lessons. I hope we learn from these things and grow and become stronger for it and I think we will.”

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