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Bradwell girls, Liberty boys start season strong
Girls game
Bradwells Jakaria Fleming drives the ball down the court against Liberty County during the girls game Friday at Bradwell Institute - photo by Patty Leon

The Bradwell Institute Lady Tigers staged a second-half comeback to beat Liberty County, 52-41, in Friday’s basketball season opener in the Tigers’ home gym.

In the night’s second game, Liberty County took an early lead and held it throughout the game to top Bradwell, 66-54.

The Liberty teams were scheduled to play Saturday at Statesboro. The Bradwell boys’ team was set to host New Hampstead on Saturday as well. Results were unavailable at press time.

Both Liberty County squads next play at Tattnall County on Friday, while  the Bradwell teams next host Wayne County the same night.

Lady Tigers 52, Lady Panthers 41

It took an entire first half of play before the Lady Tigers shook off the first-game rust and jitters.

Realizing that Lady Panther Tia Fleming, who led all scorers with 19 points, was killing them down low, the Lady Tigers emerged from the locker room with a whole new game plan.

 “I didn’t think it would take a whole half to get out of it,” Bradwell coach Faye Baker said. “We went to our pressure game, and it worked in our favor.”

Baker said the players picked up a few fouls in the first half, which meant a few of her starters had to sit the bench.

“I think they did a really good job in the second quarter … they chipped away at the lead,” she said about her reserves.

At the half, Liberty was up, 29-18, and Baker said she gave a little speech to the Lady Tigers in addition to making the adjustments.

“I talked to them and told them we are still very much in the game. We needed to settle down and dig in defensively,” Baker said.

Baker said once her girls settled down, Brianna Johnson started to hit the shots she missed earlier in the game. Johnson scored all 10 of her points in the second half. Raina Richardson led BI with 14 points.

The non-conference game was played in front of a packed house. As the home team girls fought back, the Lady Tigers’ fans exploded in cheer each time the players hit a basket.

“It was important to see that even though we were down, they didn’t give up,” Baker said. “They dug in and they stayed together as a team. They were able to overcome.”

Lady Panther coach Carolyn Kelly said her team will take home a valuable lesson. She said they will work hard to increase their endurance and knows the mental aspect of the game will soon filter into the younger players. Overall the Lady Panthers, as young as they are, proved they can score and play hard.

“Our kids did extremely well and did exactly what we asked them to do,” Kelly said. “But when they came out and put that pressure on us, that created problems for my team.”

Senior Lady Panther Jaelynn James added eight points.

Panthers 66, Tigers 54

Within minutes, it was obvious the game was going to be up-tempo.

Liberty started to break away midway through the first quarter and never relinquished the lead. The Panthers had a five-point lead at halftime, but, despite playing without four key players who were playing in Friday’s football-playoff game in Griffin, pulled away in the third.

Milik Wallace scored 18 points, including a 3-pointer, to lead Liberty. Devion Mitchell had 17 points, including a 3-pointer to keep Liberty just out of reach.

Darrell Hawkins who set the pace for the home team with 11 points. La’don Williams chipped in eight points.

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