After giving their fans a case of the nervous jitters, the Lady Tigers eked out a 55-54 win Wednesday against the visiting Riverdale Raiders, sending Bradwell to the Elite 8 this Saturday.
Lady Tiger Camille Jackson, a key defensive player, watched the action from the stands after injuring her ankle last week during BI’s first playoff game against the Lady Luella Lions.
Mariah Maternik set the pace in the first quarter, scoring 9 of her 15 points from the 3-point range in a four-minutes span.
The Lady Tigers kept the lead for most of the game and had a 20-point spread with 3:35 left in the third quarter. However, the Lady Raiders wrangled it down to an 11-point spread thanks, in part, to Raider Tiayra Green’s two shots from the trey line. In the fourth, they continued to chip away at the Lady Tigers after Raiders Shyree Heard and Jasmine Barnes each hit 3-pointers.
The Raiders eventually tied the game at 50 with less than four minutes on the clock.
But Lady Tiger Quintunya Chapman came off the bench and was instrumental in getting a few key steals. Using her speed to drive down the court, she either hit the layup or set up Seandre Lee.
As the seconds ticked down, Lee hit a layup and headed to the line where she hit one of two. A few seconds later, LaNiqua Fowler hit a shot from the line that gave the girls their 55-54 advantage at the buzzer.
Lee scored 16, Maternik chipped in 15 and LaNiqua Fowler scored 11 in the nail-biter, sending the girls to the Elite 8 at Fort Valley State on Saturday. They play Redan.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, but I thought when we came out with a 20-point lead I definitely didn’t think it was going to be that close in the end," Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker said. "You have to give Riverdale credit. They have some great athletes and their pressure really rattled us. They were smart — they tried to take our primary ball handler, Mariah, out of it and our other girls just weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing at that time."
But the coach credits her girls for not breaking down.
"When Riverdale took a lead late in the fourth quarter, we could have very well crumbled, but we were able to hold on and gut it out and for that I’m grateful," she said.
Last year, Redan won the class AAAAA state title and thwarted the Lady Tigers’ state run."In our post game we talked about doing a better job of taking care of the basketball," Baker said. "That is one of the things we are going to be focusing on the next couple of days is our press offense. That is what hurt us tonight, handling the ball under pressure. We know Redan is powerful. They haven’t lost a game in two years. But again, hopefully we will get a chance to redeem ourselves from last year."
"We lost one of our good defensive players," Lee said of Jackson’s absence. "So we just have to come out and play harder. Our players need to step up and we need to step forward instead of taking a step back. We need to try and make our goal of being number one in the state."
Saturday’s game at Fort Valley is at 4 p.m.