Baldwin High School faced two top-ranked teams in the state in their respective classifications, as the Braves and Bravettes travelled to Howard Friday night and took on Wilkinson County at home Saturday.
After a loss against Rutland earlier in the week, the Bravettes turned things around with wins against Howard (55-51) and Wilkinson County (39-32).
“The first game against Wilkinson County, our players were embarrassed because they lost and gave up 50 plus points to Wilkinson County, so tonight and all week in practice they said, ‘we’re going to focus on the defensive end,’” Randall Owens, women’s head coach, said. “Our players know that they can score, but they took it upon themselves to show that they can also defend.”
Owens admits his team took a similar approach against the Lady Huskies on Friday.
“It was a huge win for us,” he said. “Howard came in ranked number seven in the state; they have two Division I players, but again our players looked past all of that and said, ‘hey, we were embarrassed the first time we played them.’ So, they wanted to show that they could play with anybody in the state of Georgia.”
Scoring a season high 26 points against Howard on Friday and 12 against the Lady Warriors on Saturday, Jayla Waller led the Bravettes once again. Waller also had a total of nine steals on the weekend.
Also playing well was Bria Reeves with six rebounds against Howard and five against Wilkinson County.
“For both nights, we had several players that made a lot of contribution, players that hadn’t done it in the past, but stepped their game up for this huge weekend,” Owens said. “Kayla McCray, Anthonika Thomas, of course Jayla Waller and Bria Reeves did a great job of playing against bigger post-players and battling all night long.”
In Owens’ mind, the ladies are buying into the program and are now reaping the benefits of their hard work.
“I think the players are starting to understand the system, both offensively and defensively, and they’re becoming more comfortable in everything that we’re doing,” he said. “We knew early on it was going to take some time for us to get it all together, but at this point in time I think everything seems to be clicking for us.”
While the women enjoyed two big wins, the men were only able to clinch one victory over the weekend, taking down Howard 48-35, but falling to their rival Wilkinson County 52-58.
“We definitely were able to get a win on the road inside region 2-AAAA. We were able to go on the road and secure a win against a Howard team that is playing better than their record indicates. On Saturday, we came out and did not play our best basketball. One thing we’ve got to learn with our back-to-back games is consistency.”
Juwon Freeman led the Braves offensively on Friday against their region opponent, Howard, with 13 points, while Jatavius Williams anchored the defense with 10 rebounds in the contest.
In Saturday’s game against the Warriors, Stetson Richardson stepped up once again and scored 12 points for BHS with four steals, followed by Nicholas Jones with 11 of his own and seven rebounds. Williams, once again, led the defense with eight rebounds.
Larkin is pleased with how his men stepped up in the absence of the Braves’ leading scorer and rebounder in Marquise Williams in both games over the weekend.
“If you take a team, and you take away their leading scorer and leading rebounder, that team by default becomes a different team. That element away from us makes us a different ball club,” he said. “We’ve challenged our guys and told them they need to take ownership. Everybody has to do a little bit more.”
Splitting on the weekend, Larkin admits that the Braves did not play their best basketball, but believes that they have what it takes to earn a win tonight against another region opponent in West Laurens.
“We didn’t do a bad job defensively, but it’s not our best defensive performance,” Larkin said. “I believe we have what it takes to get the job done. We’re looking to bounce back.”
BHS gets back into action tonight at West Laurens, with the Bravettes starting at 6 p.m. and the men following at 7:30 p.m.