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Braves shake off bad quarters in region wins

Feb. 2—In two straight Region 2-AAAA basketball games closing out the month of January, Baldwin High's boys had one extraordinarily bad quarter of offense. But, each game has three others, and in those three Ben Smith's Braves managed to take control and remain unbeaten in the league.

First, there was the Jan. 26 game at Griffin High. At halftime, the Braves led the Bears 32-22. By limiting Baldwin to six points in the third quarter, Griffin led 41-38 with one more eight-minute block to play. It was in the fourth that Baldwin found its stroke again and returned home on the winning side 56-53.

In that game, the Braves were just 5-for-16 shooting 3-pointers and committed 19 turnovers. Tre Lawrence scored 19 points, Deven Nelson added 13 and Isaiah Dennis 12.

Back home on the James A. Lundsford Court Tuesday, Baldwin took on a Westside High club from Macon that arrived with 16 wins on the season. The visiting Seminoles came out with a whole lot of confidence and execution while the Braves misfired from everywhere.

When the first quarter ended, Westside led 20-5. Lawrence and Karez Demory, with a little help from Omari Woodard, had Baldwin looking more like their potent selves from that point on. When it was over, the Braves were in command of the floor and won 63-52 for an 11-0 region record and 20-2 mark overall.

At 5:12 of the first quarter, all the baskets of the game belonged to the Seminoles, all the baskets being two second-chance field goals. A freshman point guard, Jalen Whitley, scored five in a row while Baldwin was still looking for its first basket from the floor. It took a timeout from Smith and all the way to 2:50 for that first make, a foul-line jumper by Woodard, but the Braves still trailed 9-3.

Westside was getting by Baldwin's full-court press to score and running the floor on missed shots. With 20 seconds still to play, the Seminoles went ahead 17-5. Baldwin's quickness to shoot got the visitors another possession, 10 seconds worth, and used it for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

The extra-long shot, however, seemed to be what Westside settled for in the second quarter. It made two and kept a double-digit lead as much as 26-14. Baldwin, however, was heating up and drew three offensive fouls on the Seminoles.

The Braves went on a 12-0 run with an offensive rebound basket from Woodard, Lawerence's assist to Dennis and a steal and slam combination by Demory. The game was tied 26-26 at 1:54 until halftime, but the Braves had a turnover late with things still tied 28-all. Westside took advantage, putting the go-ahead basket in with two seconds left, which meant it never trailed in the first half and had a 30-28 edge at the break.

Early in the third quarter, Westside led 35-31, at which point Lawrence and Demory took over. Lawrence made what at the time was Baldwin's second 3-pointer, and for only the second time in the game the Braves took the lead on Demory's offensive board. He found Dennis open for 3 to make it 39-37.

There was one more tie at 39-all, but Demory and Lawrence scored two in a row. Towards the end of the quarter, Lawrence scored again, and with Trakeon Downing's second-chance jumper at the buzzer the game was a complete flip from the first half with the Braves on top 50-43.

Each time Westside would score in the fourth period, the Braves had an answer. That included two more baskets by Woodard, who had 10 points to go with eight rebounds. Lawrence canned 23 points and grabbed eight boards, and Demory scored 14 points. Top rebounding honors went to Jaylen King, nine off the bench.

BALDWIN GIRLS ACTION

There was some championship style celebrating by the Baldwin High girls basketball team Tuesday.

Janaye Walker did not lead the No. 1 Bravettes in scoring during a dominating 50-point win over Westside, but in the third quarter she surpassed the 1,000-point plateau in this, her junior season.

Walker finished the game with 14 points to go with nine rebounds. Kassidy Neal had 17 points and seven assists while Madison Ruff, already building past 1,000 points for Baldwin, scored 16. Ruff also had six of the 26 steals, which was against only 11 turnovers.

Baldwin didn't go full-court in defending Westside's girls, but stood in a 1-3-1 zone with Ruff at the top mauling the opposition's point. Neal and Jasmine Williams were also stealing the ball at will. In an opening 10-2 run, Williams had three steals with a 3-pointer assisted by Neal. Neal had four points with two assists, the other to JaMya Easley.

Neal would later stick a 3-pointer, the pass coming again from Williams, and Suri Clark came off the bench for a second-chance basket. It was 24-8 Baldwin after the first.

During the second quarter, Easley's put-back gave her an old-fashioned three-point play. Walker wasn't much involved in the offense, but then Ruff found her open with a full-court pass. Walker followed that with a stick-back score taking the game into halftime 41-13.

Walker's talents were put on display in the third quarter, first with a high-low assist to Easley. She then surged towards her milestone with six points, two assists coming from Ruff, and she was honored by mom/coach Kizzi Walker at 4:16 (the score 51-13).

The Bravettes were up by 40, 59-19, after the third and shut down Westside in a shortened fourth.

With a 69-41 win the previous Friday at Griffin, Baldwin's girls still stand on top of Region 2-AAAA at 11-0.