A third-quarter scoring surge by the Baldwin boys basketball team helped stave off an upset by visiting Putnam County Tuesday.
The Braves took a five-point lead into the locker room at the half and then won the third quarter 19-6 on their way to a 58-50 victory.
The War Eagles of Putnam put together a huge fourth quarter attempt at a comeback, and got to within four points, but second-year head coach Anthony Webb’s team made the plays necessary to pull out the win.
“I figured the team would be a little nervous being that it was the first game of the season,” Webb said of his Braves. “We didn't shoot the ball particularly well and struggled to get into a rhythm. We just have to get in practice and continue to work hard to get better as we progress through the season. But overall I think we responded well and came out with the win.”
One big reason Baldwin was able to come out on top in the season opener was the play of sophomore Jacobi Nixon. The team’s two leading scorers from last season were struggling from the field, but Nixon was thriving. He had a game-high 17 points on a perfect 8-for-8 night shooting with eight rebounds (three offensive) and three blocks. The 10th-grader had a particularly impressive stretch just before the end of the first half.
With the game tied 20-20 and two minutes left in the second, BHS junior Lataeveon Roach knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing to put his team up before Nixon took over. An offensive rebound followed by a putback, a block on defense and a lay-in at the buzzer punctuated a strong first half from the young man. His positive play continued all the way through the game’s final whistle as the War Eagles tried to make things interesting. The Braves were up four with 10 seconds to play and Putnam had the ball. Nixon stepped in front of a hard drive to the basket to take his third charge of the night and erase any thoughts of a comeback by the visitors from Eatonton.
“Jacobi did a great job,” Coach Webb said. “He was very consistent on both ends of the floor. Jacobi brings a lot of energy and it showed. If he continues and everyone else brings that same type of energy, we should do well in the rest of our games. I am looking for great things from him throughout the season.”
No other Braves finished in double figures Tuesday. Junior Jahzi Norman had nine points and four rebounds while Will Freeman fought through a rough shooting night to put up eight points.
The Putnam game was the first of the regular season for Baldwin in this year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several changes were made to the school’s gymnasium and masks were required of all fans. Coach Webb also remained masked up throughout the contest.
“It was different coaching in a mask,” Webb said. “It is already hard for the players to hear your instruction without a mask, so the mask makes it even harder. We are just going to have to get used to it because that's the new normal.”
Baldwin did not have to wait long before stepping into region play this season as the team traveled to Westside-Macon Thursday and won 77-59. The Seminoles had been projected as one of the top teams, not just in Baldwin’s region, but the entire 4A classification. BHS is highly-rated too, and showed just why on the road Thursday even while missing a starter who has yet to come over from the football field.
The Braves’ weekend game against Washington County has already been postponed due to coronavirus concerns on WACO’s part. The Baldwin boys are scheduled to be back on their home floor Tuesday to take on Northeast High School at 7:30 p.m.