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Moss fights back from another knee injury

A chance to finish her high school basketball career on a good note never happened for D'Andra Moss. Her senior season at Norcross ended with her on crutches.

Earlier this year, she was hobbled again -- for the second time by a torn anterior cruciate ligament. That setback wiped out her junior season at Virginia Commonwealth and kept her from the NCAA tournament, but it didn't end her college career.

The 6-foot forward has one more season at VCU. And she's taking full advantage of it.

Moss never averaged double figures her first three seasons -- her scoring ranged from 6.3 points to 9.9 points as a junior -- but now she's the Rams' go-to scorer.

"I'm a more mature player now, but I definitely have the same type of mentality," Moss said. "I'm looking to be a threat offensively and a force defensively."

So far, she's done both.

Moss averages a team-high 19.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, making 53.5 percent of her field goals and 85.0 percent of her free throws. She was named the Colonial Athletic Association player of the week in late November after a 33-point, 10-rebound effort against Morgan State.

The strong start wasn't totally expected, especially given the way Moss' junior season ended on Feb. 5. Her right knee gave out with a torn ACL vs. UNC-Wilmington, a similar situation to what happened to her as a high school senior three years earlier. She tore the ACL in her left knee, also in February, at Norcross.

The instant pain let her know exactly what happened.

"Oh yeah, yep. I knew (it was the ACL)," Moss said. "I was trying to be optimistic, but I already knew. I thought, 'Here we go again.' I just had to get my mind right. I had a couple of days to get over it and then I had to focus on getting back."

Her comeback hasn't been easy. Getting back on the court was tough, and the aches and pains at night still come. Stretching and icing are routine.

But she said the knee doesn't bother her too much.

"I feel good," Moss said. "I don't practice as long as everybody else. I felt like I needed to step back. The coaches do a good job of gauging me in practice and making sure I don't get too many reps."

Moss is on track to graduate in May with a degree in psychology and a minor in criminal justice. She is considering a career in law enforcement or the military, as well as a possible pro basketball career overseas.

But she still has the rest of her college season, one more chance to go out the right way. It was a chance she didn't get in high school.

"I think we can win the conference championship, that's what I'm looking for," Moss said. "We've had a lot of success the last few years and we want to win a conference title by any means necessary. That's the No. 1 goal."

BASKETBALL

GCSU, Gwinnett grads start well

Gwinnett products have played key roles so far this season for the 5-1 Georgia College and State University men's team.

Greater Atlanta Christian grad Reece Wiedeman, a 6-foot-8 junior, averages 10.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. Teammate Ty Rowland, a senior guard from Parkview, averages 9.7 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

Shiloh grad Andre Mikell averages 2.2 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds off the bench.

Fast break

Berkmar grad Wesley Witherspoon, a sophomore at Memphis, had career bests in points (13) and rebounds (eight) Wednesday night in a 76-51 win over Montana State. Witherspoon made 4 of 5 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. ... Spencer Gay provided instant offense for top-ranked Washington University (Mo.) in a 64-62 win over No. 8 Wheaton College on Wednesday night. The Mill Creek grad had a career-high 14 points of 6 of 7 shooting in only 13 minutes, sparking a second-half rally with eight points in a span of barely more than a minute. ... Duluth grad Alex Phillips, a freshman at Mercer, grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds and scored seven points last Saturday in a 98-69 win over Belmont. She upped her season rebounding average to 5.3. ... Peachtree Ridge grad Zach Graham had 15 points last weekend in Ole Miss' 81-79 win over Southern Miss.

Dacula grad Brittany Jarrard had 18 points for Augusta State last week in a 76-63 loss to Armstrong State. The senior guard leads her team in scoring (12.6) and 3-point shooting (43.8 percent). ... Vanderbilt continues to get solid contributions from freshman Tiffany Clarke, who had 14 points Thursday night vs. Quinnipiac. The Norcross grad averages 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. ... Miami-Dade Community College freshman Zach Lamb, also a freshman from Norcross, is averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.0 assists. He also has made 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers.

SWIMMING

UGA's Mangimelli named top freshman

Georgia swimmer Jana Mangimelli, the Daily Post's swimmer of the year the past two seasons, was named the SEC freshman of the week on Tuesday.

The Brookwood grad earned the honor for winning the 400 individual medley and placing second in the 200 IM at the UGA Fall Invitational last weekend. She also finished third in the 100 backstroke and fourth in the 100 butterfly, along with anchoring a runner-up 800 freestyle relay team.

SOCCER

Mitchell, Pascutti make strong debuts

Parkview grads Morgan Mitchell and Kristina Pascutti helped their high school team to a state title last spring and then continued their success as teammates at Armstrong Atlantic, which won the Peach Belt Conference tournament this season.

Mitchell was a first-team All-Peach Belt selection, a first-team All-Region pick and an honorable mention Daktronics All-American after tallying 12 goals and seven assists this season.

Pascutti was third on the team with eight goals and also added four assists.

Morgan, Cayonne named All-Americans

Norcross grad Kingsley Morgan and Loganville resident Richard Cayonne, teammates at Georgia Perimeter College, were named National Junior College Athletic Association All-Americans this week. Both players made the first team.

Morgan, a freshman midfielder, had six goals and four assists for a national runner-up team that finished 22-2. Cayonne, a sophomore team captain, anchored the Jaguars' defense.

CROSS COUNTRY

Gulf South honors locals

Three Gwinnett grads made the All-Gulf South Conference cross country teams this season, led by first-team selection Robert Fenesterer of West Georgia. The Peachtree Ridge grad earned the nod after placing ninth at the Gulf South meet.

West Georgia's Briana Crawford (Collins Hill) was 18th in the Gulf South women's race to earn second-team all-conference honors along with West Florida's Megan Steinocher (Mill Creek).

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.