It’s early, but you can go ahead and fill in one spot on the 2021 GHSA Class 4A boys state playoff bracket.
The Baldwin Braves (11-0 overall, 9-0 region) secured the Region 4-4A championship with Monday night’s 62-46 home win over the Perry Panthers. The Braves have cemented their status as a No. 1 seed once the postseason begins later this month. Normally they would still have to fight through a region tournament to earn that right, but region athletic directors opted to forego that process this season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some other regions are going that same route while the rest are choosing to hold the tournaments as normal.
The region title is the Baldwin boys’ first since the 2017-18 season, which is when they eventually advanced all the way to the Final Four. It’s also the first since head coach Anthony Webb took over the program last year. The Braves finished as region runners-up last season.
“It’s great for these kids,” Webb said after Monday’s win. “We know we’re going to host some state playoff games.”
BHS will get to host at least its first two postseason matchups if they make it into the second round, and possibly the third depending on how the bracket shakes out.
The Braves solidified their postseason positioning mostly thanks to a third-quarter surge against the Panthers Monday. The first half was largely back-and-forth as the two contenders fought to hold on to the lead. Baldwin pulled ahead by five just before the break, but came out of the locker room looking like a different team.
“Their No. 3 could look over our defense, and we weren’t rotating like we were supposed to,” Coach Webb said of the first half. “We were going for fakes when we had them trapped, which allowed them to split the trap and get some high-percentage shots. That was killing us in the first half, so we made the adjustment in the second half to be in help position all the time. That forced them into some turnovers and bad shots, so we were able to take advantage.”
Following a cold shooting first half, BHS senior and reigning All-County Player of the Year Will Freeman found his rhythm in the third quarter. He and classmate Jermyus Simmons provided the spark the team needed to put together a 20-6 period. Freeman started the frame with a nice jumper before Simmons scored on an offensive putback to put the Braves up nine. Shortly after, Simmons found sophomore Jacobi Nixon on a perfectly-executed pick and roll to keep momentum rolling. Later Freeman splashed home a three-pointer from deep on the left wing and hustled down the floor to hit a layup that beat the third-quarter buzzer and extended his team’s lead to 48-29.
Perry won the fourth quarter, but was way too far behind to really be a threat. The visiting Panthers allowed BHS point guard Rudolph Satcher to dribble the clock out with more than 30 seconds remaining.
Freeman led all scorers on the night with 18 points, most of which came in the second half. Simmons finished not far behind with 15.
The Baldwin boys have only one remaining regular season game scheduled at Perry Monday. They will finish out their slate without ever having played new region opponent Spalding High School who ran into trouble with the coronavirus. No region tournament means the Braves will have a long layoff before the start of the state playoffs, which are scheduled to begin Feb. 23.