A packed out crowd filled the newly-dedicated James A. Lunsford Gymnasium Friday night to watch the Baldwin Braves (13-7 overall, 6-1 region) take on the visiting Bears of Burke County (11-8 overall, 4-3 region) in some varsity high school basketball.
There was certainly more to be celebrated than just an exciting matchup between region opponents as it was also Senior Night.
Despite usually sporting a very young starting lineup, the five lone seniors were instead chosen to be the five starters by head coach Anthony Webb in what was clearly an homage to their commitment to Braves basketball.
The visiting Bears exploded out of the gate and continued to stretch out their lead even after the regular Baldwin starters were rotated back onto the floor. Burke was able to sport a 10-2 lead with roughly five minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Braves would take off on a scoring run of their own to close out the quarter however as the offense was significantly supplemented by the offensive contributions of junior Jermyus Simmons as well as freshman Rudolph Satcher. The quarter came to a close with Burke ahead by just three and the score set at 17-14.
The second period would be Baldwin’s most dominant period of the night in which they essentially made the game a forgone conclusion. The Braves scored a whopping 20 points to the Bears' 10; doubling their opponent’s output through the use of team basketball. No one player stood out offensively, as both Simmons and Satcher continued to score while Shatavious Hogan and William Freeman got involved as well. Jacobi Nixon should not go unmentioned either as his uncanny ability to draw a charge kept the opposing offense on their heels. He recorded two in the second period alone. Simmons would score on consecutive possessions before Hogan finished off the period with a putback bucket at the buzzer. The Braves went into the halftime break now up 34-27.
In the third quarter the Bears would attempt to battle back, however were unable to ever cut the Baldwin lead to less than six. Hogan continued to dominate the paint on both sides of the floor while Simmons’ hustle fueled the engine that was the Baldwin offense. On more than one occasion Simmons would follow his own missed shot only to collect an offensive rebound and finish inside. Satcher continued to rely on his speed with the ball to beat the opposition up the floor in transition, oftentimes simply taking it to the hoop himself. The quarter would come to a close with an alley-oop lay in from Freeman to Hogan at the buzzer, providing momentum and a eight-point lead for the Braves at 45-37.
In the final quarter the Braves went on yet another scoring run while the Bears were simply held at bay. With four minutes remaining, the Baldwin lead had been stretched out 15 points as the seniors were rotated back into the ballgame.
There would be no drama as the final moments of the game ticked away with the Braves winning by a score of 58-48.
The Baldwin boys went on the road Saturday and won another region game at Thomson 58-52. The Braves have but one regular season contest remaining and it’s Friday at Cross Creek where the top seed in the region will likely be on the line. Once this weekend’s games are complete coaches will meet and hash out details for the Region 3-4A tournament.