Braves fans were not sold short on exciting basketball Friday, as both Baldwin High teams took it right down to the wire at home against tough Veterans High teams.
Battling back from a 17-point deficit, the Bravettes nipped the Lady War Hawks 54-46 on Friday night.
“Initially, we were down 17-0, and that’s not the way we would like to start a basketball game, but to Veterans’ credit, they are a very good team,” Randall Owens, women’s head coach, said. “The key for us was turning up our defensive pressure, defensive intensity, and that’s what we preach to the players all the time. Once they started forcing turnovers they saw the fruits of their labor, and we were able to come back and win the basketball game.”
After letting Veterans get into a rhythm in the first half, BHS brought full-court pressure down the stretch to create turnovers and wear their opponent down.
“Veterans is a very methodical team, and they rely on precision and timing. We were able to throw them off their rhythm, which was able to force a lot of turnovers,” Owens said. “In the first half they were able to take their time, be patient and shoot a lot of jump shots, but we’ve told our players all year, just because a team is making jump shots in the first quarter, they won’t be making them in the fourth. For the fifth straight game, that has been the recipe.”
BHS was led offensively by a trio of Bravettes: Jayla Waller, Bria Reeves and Terrian Williams, each scoring in double figures. Waller finished with 18 points, Reeves with 15 and Williams had 12 in the contest.
Owens believes his team is maturing and gaining confidence that will help the Bravettes later in the season.
“I think it begins with confidence. Our players were down tonight 17-0, but I looked in their eyes and there wasn’t any doubt. They felt like there was a lot of basketball left to be played and they still had a chance,” he said. “Our players are starting to develop that confidence, and they believe in each other, they believe in the coaching staff; also the coaching staff believes in the players. They are showing a lot of maturity, a lot of grit, a lot of determination, so we’re very happy again, to win the basketball game.”
For the men, the outcome was not as pretty, as the BHS men’s basketball team lost 49-51 on a buzzer-beater.
“Definitely it was a tough loss. Certainly not our best basketball game, but you know, defensively I still tip my hat off to our guys,” Rechard Larkin, men’s head coach, said. “They really defended well. Tonight we didn’t score enough points.”
With two of the team’s top scorers, Jatavius Williams and Juwon Freeman, out of the line-up, the Braves were forced to rely on other players to defend the home court against the War Hawks.
“We were missing two of our top scorers tonight, two of our starters,” Larkin said. “Certainly anytime you’re missing two of your better players, you know that puts you in a hole, but I applaud guys who came in, played and gave us an opportunity tonight to win this ball game down to the very last possession.”
Larkin credits the War Hawks for showing up to compete against a former undefeated team at their home, and pulling off a victory.
“Tip your hat off to a very good ball club,” he said. “They came in here, really with their backs kind of against the wall, and really just fought. So, we certainly give them credit for fighting tonight.”
Even with two starters missing, BHS did not lack in production with Marquis Williams hitting 16 points on the night, followed by Stetson Richardson with 13 and Javontae Adams with 10. Their contributions were enough to give Braves fans a tied ball game with only seconds remaining.
“I’m proud of our guys for the way they played tonight,” Larkin said. “Certainly we came up on the losing end, but our guys stepped up and played well, and we had an opportunity to win that ball game.”
BHS will take the court next in their first away contest this season on Tuesday against Hancock Central, with the women beginning at 7 p.m. and the men at 8:30 p.m.