Griffin High was No. 1 in girls basketball for Region 2-AAAA and the whole GHSA classification when they arrived at James A. Lunsford gymnasium. And the Lady Bears already had a win over the top region rival, the Baldwin High Bravettes, earlier in January in Griffin.
So what did Kizzi Walker’s girls have to lose? That was the approach to Friday’s rematch, and with a 9-0 third-quarter run Baldwin High evened things up in the regular-season series winning 62-45.
“We’re coming after them. They’re No. 1,” said Walker after the game. “They have the pressure, not us. So we are going to play hard. We are going to show who is the best in the region.
“Lot of fast breaks for us. We were finishing. We had a little problem with our free throws, but we were finishing at the rim. That was the difference.”
Walker also had a full lineup for the second game in a row. The week for Baldwin girls began with a game in Griffin, against Spalding High, and in the convincing 75-20 win Jasmine Williams returned to the lineup with 11 points and seven of the team’s 30 steals.
A Bravette who’s come on strong in January started her big contributions when starting forward Janaye Walker missed a half of action to injury. On Friday, junior Jamya Easley worked with Walker for some fourth-quarter baskets to put the game away. Easley finished with nine points.
“She’s always been a great asset to the team,” said Kizzi Walker. “She got hurt (shoulder) her freshman year, and came back last year kind of iffy. This year, she’s ready to play.”
Zykeria Paschal is also making things happen off the bench offensively and defensively. She had six points against Griffin, and her coach said her confidence is building at the right time.
As for the starters, Kassidy Neal and Walker each had 14 points. Walker was credited with 26 rebounds to go with four assists and four blocks. Madison Ruff scored 12; she plus every other player mentioned is an underclassman.
Griffin beat Baldwin by one point, 53-52, Jan. 3. On Friday, the teams played an even first half 23-23. Walker had two put-backs in the first quarter, and Williams banked home a 3-pointer with five seconds on the clock. That tied the game 12-12, and it was the only 3-ball Baldwin had all game. Williams also had a great play denying Griffin transition points at the 32-second mark.
But as Baldwin struggled at the free-throw line in the second quarter – not to mention not being able to cash in about five steals – Griffin ripped a 3 with four seconds between them and intermission.
Neal scored her side’s first six points of the third quarter on three field goals. Griffin never led in the second half, but by stealing a pass intended for Neal stayed within two points 29-27.
Baldwin’s fast break onslaught began with those two bench players, Easley and Paschal. Paschal was wide open going to her scoring goal, and Easley’s outlet was on target for a 32-27 lead. After a few successful trips to the foul line, Ruff put back an offensive rebound.
With under three minutes to play, Walker had the basketball end up in her hands at the Griffin offensive end. She gave it to Ruff for an end-to-end scoring push. Ruff then threw a full-court pass to Williams, who dropped the ball off to Easley for another 2. That made it 41-28.
To finish off the quarter, Baldwin actually executed a half-court set with Walker scoring. It was 44-32 going into the fourth.
Griffin put in the first six of the final period and worked its full-court press. When it was 46-38, Walker found Easley twice to break that press. Then at 4:16, Griffin was only down seven, 50-43. That’s when Paschal scored from another gift-wrapped steal and made beautiful assist to Neal. Walker added a put-back and third assist to Easley to put the game out of reach.
For Baldwin’s girls, 14-7 (8-1 in region) after the win, the regular season ends with three straight road games.
“We have to stay focused and not overlook anyone,” said Kizzi Walker. “Make sure we play hard each game.
To say things were sluggish between Baldwin High and Griffin High in the boys basketball game Friday would be understating things. That was the first half description anyway. As the tempo picked up in the second half, the Braves came out with a big Region 2-AAAA win 52-41 to improve to 7-2 in the league. Anthony Webb’s team was coming off a one-point loss, 54-53, to Spalding the previous Tuesday.
The most life shown in the first half Friday for Baldwin came from senior forward Jacobi Nixon. After he scored four straight, Jordan Webb led a fast break Kenneth Kelsey finished off for a three-point play. Tremarious Lawrence concluded the first quarter with a stick-back making it 12-6 Braves.
But Nixon was the only Brave to score from the floor in the second quarter. Even with a porous offensive showing by the home club, Griffin didn’t change its total until halfway through. But at 1:03 until halftime, the Bears sank a 3 to trail by only three, 16-13, at the break.
Nixon and Lawrence took it upon themselves to energize Baldwin in the third quarter. Nixon began with a reverse lay-up and later slammed the ball home. Lawrence threw in nine quick points including a 3-pointer at 4:51 and a takeaway hoop making the lead 29-17.
With five seconds on the clock, Solomon Burney, back-up forward, tipped in a miss for 38-29 Baldwin with eight more minutes to play. Baldwin was very active to start the fourth quarter, particularly Kelsey with four points. Two were from a full-court pass by Jordan Webb. Kelsey then yanked the basketball from a Griffin Bear at a point when his team needed another lift, this lift to a lead by 10, 44-34.
Griffin, though, pulled the same type of play on Baldwin in retaliation. So the Braves got a three-point play by Lawrence off a takeaway at 2:31 and second-chance points by Nixon to close out the win.
Spalding is 8-2 to lead 2-AAAA boys with Baldwin in second place. The Braves play third-place Westside in Macon today (Jan. 31) looking to avenge a loss to the Seminoles in Milledgeville Jan. 6.