The Lady Tigers maintained a comfortable lead at home Friday night against the Lady Rebels of Groves High. Despite a good attempt by the Rebels in the fourth quarter, the Lady Tigers wrapped up another region victory, winning 68-37 and earning a 7-1 region 3-AAAAA record. They held on to their second place ranking and improved to 14-3 overall.
Bradwell’s boys held on to the No. 4 spot in the region despite Friday’s loss to Groves. The Tigers gave up a first-quarter lead, but came back to tie the game. However, in the end, they allowed the Rebels a 5-point run for the win, losing 48-53 in front of their home crowd. The Tigers are 6-10 overall and 4-4 in the region.
The boys opened up the first quarter and took 6-point lead, but the Groves Rebels remained focused. Throughout the first half, the Rebels never trailed by more than 5 points and right at the buzzer, a Rebel player sank a three-pointer to close the half, trailing by three (20-23).
Tiger players Derrick Nesbitt, Tony Coston and DeAndre Ross tried to keep the offense moving despite some poor passes in the third quarter, but the Rebels took the lead.
With 2:18 left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers trailed by one (48-47). Tiger Joseph Palmer had a few opportunities to give his squad the lead at the free-throw line and eventually sank one to tie the score at 48.
With each team scrambling to get ahead, a steal, a bad pass and a shot at the line gave the Rebels more opportunities to make their 5 point run for the win. With the victory, Groves maintains the No. 1 spot in the region.
"I was really proud of the way they played last night," Tiger coach Pete Woodard said the morning after the game. "They gave 100 percent effort. There was nothing wrong with their game on both ends of the court. But we missed some free throws toward the end that might have let us pull this off. We make those free throws, we had a chance to put the game away. But the boys gave their heart, and you could tell they wanted it."
Woodard said he told his players to put the past behind them and start playing one game at a time.
"We still have to try and get to the regional tournament," he said. "The objective now is to finish the stretch out with as many wins as possible, to maintain our confidence and hopefully go into the regional tournament with a good outlook and a good attitude on winning."
Lady Tiger Seandre Lee hit the net for 17 points, pacing the offense that closed the first quarter ahead of the Lady Rebels, 17-7. Two minutes later, the Lady Tigers scored another 6 to the Rebels 2 points, and the pace never slowed. The Lady Tiger starters and reserves ran up the score, closing the first half leading 42-18.
The Lady Rebels struggled and managed a rally in the third and fourth quarters, despite the absence of Lady Rebel power forward Courtney Williams, who went down in the first half with a knee injury. The injury could affect the rest of Williams’ season, depending on the final prognosis from an MRI.
"I love their heart and I love their energy," Groves coach Debra Puckett said. "We had a player go down who gave her everything and I asked the squad to leave it all on the court and give whatever they had on her behalf and they dug a little deeper."
Puckett lost several starters from last season due to graduations and transfers, and said it was good to see her squad maturing from game to game.
The Lady Rebels allowed the Lady Tigers to score 25 points in the second quarter, but held them to only 11 points in the third.
Lady Tiger Mariah Maternik chipped in 14 of those points, including two three-point shots, and managed some steals, keeping the girls ahead by 23 to close the third. The Lady Tigers then outscored the Lady Rebels 15-7 to finish the fourth and earn a 68-37 win.
A concern for Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker was the turnover ratio. In the game against Camden, her squad had 27. Friday night, they reduced that number to 18.
"I was pleased with the overall performance of our team," she said. "I thought that was the best performance we’ve had in 2009. Our reserves came in early in the first quarter and actually extended the lead."
She said she was pleased with the pressure her squad placed on the Rebels, especially in the first half of regulation.
"Offensively, I was pleased with the way we moved the ball," Baker said. "We passed the ball well and were able to get some good looks inside. It was a good performance tonight."
She said she spoke to her squad about maintaining a killer instinct and not allowing a team to come back.
Baker said her goal for the season was to try and finish in the top two for the region.
"Finish first or second for good seating in the region tournament," she said. "We are in very good shape right now."
Lady Tigers 17 25 11 15-68Lady Rebels 7 11 12 7-37