PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Sometimes the games we play get interrupted by real life.
Gulf Coast took on East Georgia Monday. (WJHG/WECP)
Certainly the men who make up the Gulf Coast men's basketball team are feeling that reality in the wake head coach
Phil Gaffney's heart attack on Saturday.
While Gaffney recovers, released from the hospital on Wednesday, the team plays on.
Assistant coach Scott Jackson led the Commodores Wednesday at Pensacola, jumping out to a 20 point halftime lead and grinding out an 88-87 victory. By avenging their loss to the Pirates earlier in league play, the Commodores (17-4, 4-1) ascend to first place in the Panhandle Conference by a half game over Tallahassee.
"They came out and knew what they had to do," Jackson said after Thursday's practice. "We executed. The main thing we talked about was trying to keep everything the same because Coach Gaffney has really set the standard here. Everything was routine, but we had to go out there and prove a point on the road again to a team that we lost to earlier. There was different motivations from that game, but not much needed to be said. They were ready to go."
Jackson will coach Saturday afternoon at home against Northwest Florida while Gaffney continues to recuperate. As they prepare, Gaffney is still contributing to the team in any way he can.
"He's probably talked with us and texted us a couple of times a day," Jackson said. "The players, he's been really good about communicating with them because they're all wanting to know if he's alright and that kind of stuff. He's been very good about keeping them in the loop, so to speak, on what's going on with him, but still saying 'your focus is on the floor, your focus is in school.'"
The team is staying in close contact with the first year coach, even getting a visit on Thursday before practice.
"We have a group message that we all check to show him our love, show him that we care about him," sophomore guard Cam Holden said. "He was here for a little bit. We all stopped by to the office and spoke to him. It was just a great, great thing seeing him walking around out of the hospital, best news we got besides our win."
Holden led the Commodores with 28 points and 7 rebounds. Based on his performance and the team's as a whole, you wouldn't know the stress they've been under. On a personal level, these circumstances require everyone to dig deep.
"I want to make sure the team, we're still together," Holden assured. "We're still mentally together, physically together, we don't lose a beat because we're still in the running for a conference championship. We can't lose it just because our main man, even though we wish he was here and we miss him. We've got Coach Jackson who's really helping us and he knows what to do and he'll lead us to the right way."
The men's game tips off at 4:00 Saturday at Harrison Field House, preceded by the women's game at 2:00 for the ladies.
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