The Bradwell Institute girls basketball game Saturday was a disappointing end to a bright season for Lady Tiger seniors Seandre Lee, Camille Jackson and Kiara McNeely. They were hoping to bring home a class AAAAA state title, but were stopped by Redan, who beat the Hinesville team 71-50 in the Elite Eight at Fort Valley State.
The last time the Redan Lady Raiders lost a game was the March 7, 2008, state title match against Stephenson. In 2008-09, the Raiders were perfect —27-0 overall and 14-0 in Region 2-AAAAA. They claimed the state title by defeating Marietta. This season, the Lady Raiders were 29-0 overall going into the Elite Eight against the Lady Tigers.
The Lady Tigers, at 29-1 overall and 14-0 in Region 3-AAAAA and championship, were looking to bring down the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
Battling on neutral ground at Fort Valley State University, the Lady Tigers’ defense held the Raiders to 9 points in the first quarter while they ran up 13 for the lead.
By halftime, though, the tables had turned and the Lady Raiders were up by 9. In the third quarter, Redan extended their lead by 26 points and though the Lady Tigers closed the gap, the Lady Raiders won by the largest margin the Lady Tigers ever allowed against them. Their 71-50 victory sent the Lady Raiders to the Final Four and the Bradwell girls back home.
"I know they were going to be tough and in order to be victorious over a team like that, you have to be clicking on all cylinders," Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker said. "We were not."
The coach said Mariah Maternik, La Niqua Fowler and Quintunya Chapman had great games but said, "But when you hold our leading scorer, Lee, to 4 points, that makes a big difference in your game."
Redan is now 30-0 and will face Milton tomorrow in the Final Four at the Gwinnett Arena.
The Bradwell girls still finished with an impressive 29-2 overall season, compared with last season’s 25-5 record and their 11-5 mark in 2007-08.
"I’m proud of the kids," Baker said. "We had a career record, for me as a coach, as far as wins. It’s the most wins any of my teams has ever had."
Senior center Lee scored in the double digits in every game this year except two. Jackson was the driving force behind the Lady Tiger’s defense until she injured her ankle during a game against Luella in the first round of state, forcing her to sit out of the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight. McNeely contributed valuable scoring minutes throughout the season when injuries or foul trouble forced starters to sit the bench.
Lee averaged 19.6 points per game and was named Region 3-AAAAA Player of the Year. Jackson made the All-Region first team.
The coach expects the Lady Tigers’ future will be bright again next season with the return of junior standout Mariah Maternik.
Maternik was selected to this season’s South All-Star Team and averaged 16.1 points per game. She also had 172 assists for the year.LaNiqua Fowler flourished this season, averaging 10.9 points per game and was selected to the All-Region second team. The junior added 30 assists this year. The Lady Tigers expect Suede Jones, Latisha Frasier, Chapman, Leitia Leitaua Tiara Howard and Keandra Frasier will return next season.
Each player will be pivotal in the girls’ attempt for another state run next season.
"I want to thank the community for their support," Baker said. "My school, the principal and all the school administrators and everybody in the community that supported us through our playoff run. I want to give a special thanks to Pastor Ricky Jackson and the Mt. Zion family because they provided two vans of spectators who were there to support us in Fort Valley. That meant a lot to the coaches and the kids in the program."