Friday brought a successful Senior Night for the Bravettes of Baldwin High School (18-6 overall, 6-1 region) as they were able to edge out a region win over the visiting Lady Bears of Burke County.
Despite leading at the end of the opening quarter by seven, the Bravettes would close out the remaining three quarters with slight, two-point leads before finally winning 53-51. The game was a back-and-forth battle that kept fans captivated throughout as neither team was able to separate from the other.
In the early-goings of the first quarter the Bravettes' zone defense proved to be a serious problem for the visiting side. Senior Dasia Harden utilized quick hands and feet at the top of the key to force bad decisions by Burke ball handlers. Harden’s hustle continued on the other end of the court as well as she supplemented the offense by slashing to the basket before finding an open teammate on the perimeter. Fellow senior Mikayla Waller also made her presence known early in the ballgame by ripping down rebounds on both ends of the floor. After getting out to an early 5-0 lead Baldwin turned up the pressure and utilized a full court press to further wreak havoc on Burkes offense. Sophomore Tamia Smith recorded a steal before finishing on the other end while senior Tykeidra Jackson converted off the glass in the post. Waller and the Junior Tykeisha Thornton each blocked a shot on the inside as the opening quarter came to an end with Baldwin in the lead 13-6.
The second quarter started off in Burke’s favor as the visitors were able to knock down a few threes and eventually took the lead over the Bravettes 19-18. The lead jumped from one side to the other for a bit, but BHS still managed to carry a 29-27 lead into the locker room at the half.
Smith came out of the intermission with the hot hand as she scored on back-to-back possessions, however Burke would answer and even take the lead at 32-31 just two minutes into the quarter.
When these same two teams met for the Region 3-4A championship a year ago, overtime was needed to decide the ballgame. With the score tight throughout the second half, it looked like that might just be the case again in their final regular season meeting of the 2019-20 campaign. With four minutes to go in the ballgame Harden was able to get to the line and hit one, setting the score at 44-42, Burke. Next, Waller blocked a shot inside before Smith was able to convert on a putback opportunity on the other end. Waller would record yet another block on the subsequent possession while Harden worked it inside to earn a trip to the line. She would hit one and provide her team with the lead at 45-44. After blanking the Bears again, Harden ran the floor in transition before finishing at the rack with a euro-step that invigorated the crowd and set the Bravettes up 47-44. The Bears answered with a three of their own, while two Bravettes were each fouled in the act of shooting on Baldwin's next two chances offensively. They each hit one and the score was set at 49-47 with just two minutes remaining. Next, Jackson stole the ball on the inbound and quickly laid it in under the hoop to force a timeout by the visiting side. Burke would answer with a floater that forced Baldwin to spend a timeout of their own with the score set at 51-49 with just fifty seconds to go in the contest.
The Bravettes would miss the set shot that had been drawn up in the timeout, however, a clutch putback by senior Sanaa Ross essentially slammed the door shut on the Burke Bears.
Although the visiting side would score once more before the buzzer, it proved to be too little, too late as the clock ticked out with the Bravettes on top by a final score of 53-51.
The Baldwin girls went on the road Saturday and defeated Thomson, leaving them with one regular season game remaining at Cross Creek coming up on Friday. A win there would secure the No. 1 seed entering the region tournament for the Bravettes, while a loss would likely result in a three-way tie with Burke and Cross Creek.