Lady Dawgs won't dwell

ATHENS – From the beginning of the season to the end, nothing went the way Georgia coach Andy Landers had mapped it out for his Lady Bulldogs.

Heading into the 2005-06 season, Georgia was supposed to have 6-foot-5 McDonald's All-American Angel Robinson, 6-foot-3 returning starter Rebecca Rowsey, 6-foot-6 Penn State transfer Reicina Russell, and 6-foot-2 senior Ebony Felder to help Tasha Humphrey in the post.

But Robinson and Rowsey tore knee ligaments, Felder had to retire due to chronic knee injuries, and Russell unexpectedly left the team, all before the year began. The purge left Humphrey as the only legitimate post player on the team and the Lady Bulldogs with just six regular contributors at all positions.

"We didn't really dwell on the fact that we only played six players," Chambers said. "We got used to that early and did the best we could with the situation we were given."

Still, though, the bad breaks continued to the end. On Sunday in Bridgeport, Conn., third-seeded Georgia held a one-point lead over second-seeded Connecticut with 20 seconds left in an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game. Once again, the Lady Bulldogs had things planned out nicely.

Landers switched his team into a zone defense, negating the play Connecticut had called in the previous timeout, and the Huskies were rattled, throwing the ball back and forth around the perimeter. Then Barbara Turner buried the awkward 3-pointer that will stick with this year's Georgia team for a long time.

The end result was a 77-75 loss to cap a 23-9 season. The Lady Bulldogs fluctuated between No. 8 and No. 17 during the season in the Associated Press Top 25 and entered the tournament ranked No. 12 in the country.

"I think we did pretty well," Chambers said. "We made it this far and lost by two. I think it's a pretty good season."

All the struggles can be a lesson, Landers said.

"That's life," he said. "There's all kind of things that change in our lives. This is basketball. I think that we handled those things that were thrown at us very well, and I think it mirrors life very well. That thing they say about athletics prepares you for life is remarkably true."

The Lady Bulldogs will lose only senior guards Sherrill Baker and Alexis Kendrick, who could be forgiven for feeling cheated out of what could have been a triumphant final season with a little more help in the paint.

"You could look at it that way, but we were confident in the players we had," Kendrick said.

"Every year we have to make adjustments. We didn't feel cheated at all. I would give anything to play with these players again."

Landers is happy to hear that sentiment.

"You don't want your kids to feel cheated," he said. "You want your kids to understand that when life hits you in the gut, you have to stand up and do your best."

Robinson and Rowsey both are expected back full strength next year, which could mean even bigger things for Humphrey, who will enter 2006-'07 as a leading candidate for national player of the year honors. She led the team with 20.1 points and nine rebounds per game this year despite, as Landers said again and again, "taking on the world" in the post.

Junior Janese Hardrick, this year's sixth man, probably will move into the starting lineup, and the Megan Darrah, who was forced to play power forward this year due to the injuries, will be able to move to her natural wing position.

The pieces all appear to be there for potentially standout season, but that's the same thing the Lady Bulldogs were thinking at this time last year.

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