Bradwell point guard Javonte Richey led all scorers with 18 points and chipped in eight assists, but the third time wasn’t a charm for the Tigers as they fell to Liberty, 53-44, on Tuesday in the Gentlemen’s Classic in Statesboro.
"It is the same old story. We play well enough to stay in the game but end up making some mistakes down the stretch and it costs us. I am proud of the way the kids played tonight. We showed intensity," Bradwell coach Pete Woodard said.
Michael Farrior led the Panthers with 15 points and scored Liberty’s first five points. But the Panthers had trouble putting distance between themselves and their cross-town rival.
"I am just glad tonight is over. You really do not like playing a team three times in one season. We played too loose tonight," Liberty coach Willie Graham said.
The teams exchanged baskets throughout the first quarter. Liberty’s Shakur Cook slashed the baseline for a runner to tie the game at 11 with two minutes to go in the quarter. Richey, who had eight points in the first quarter, gave Bradwell a 13-11 lead before Liberty knotted the game at 13-13 in the final minute of the first quarter.
Bradwell’s stingy zone defense forced Liberty to pass the basketball more and create scoring opportunities off of movement. The Tigers made a point to double Liberty anytime the ball was near the high or low post.
"We were missing two players that give us a presence inside, so we didn’t have any choice but to double the basketball in the post. We need our post play to compliment our guard play. Right now our post game is non-existent," Woodard said.
The rivals continued to exchange leads and the game remained nip-and-tuck throughout the second quarter, though missed shots and travel violations weighed down both teams.
When the Panthers pulled away to a 5-point lead on a Cook layup and free throw, the Tigers answered on a rally sparked by Miguel Pineda’s 3-pointer.
Anthony Campbell hit a pair of free throws and Javonte Richey’s layup pulled BI within 27-23 at halftime.
The second half remained tight but Liberty never relinquished its lead.
The Panthers used patient offense to take time off the clock in the fourth quarter, burning a minute off before Tamontray Tucker drained a 3-pointer from the corner to go ahead 43-34.
Midway through the last quarter and trailing by 9 points, the Tigers were forced to go to a man-to-man defense to try and stay with the Panthers.
Graham was pleased with his team’s play, but saw room for improvement.
"Tonight a few times the play of two of my captains was erratic. We ended up getting in some different defenses and that allowed them to hit a 3," Graham said.
But a win is a win, and the Panthers are also able to use the tournament to improve the bench.
"We are being able to get some players in games which will help us when we get into region play. Sayvon Wilson came off the bench tonight and helped us scoring down the stretch," Graham said.
Miguel Pineda finished with 13 points for BI.
Shakur Cook chipped in 14 points for Liberty.
Bradwell faced Riverdale in its final game of the tourney on Wednesday. Liberty takes on sub-region foe Effingham.
"I don’t know anything about Effingham. They are on the other side of the region. Playing them will give us a chance to see a team that we could see at some point in region play," Graham said.
Liberty 53, Bradwell 44
Liberty: Michael Farrior 15, Shakur Cook 14, Sayvon Wilson 8, Tucory Rhodes 8, Melvin King 5, Tamontray Tucker 3.
Bradwell: Javonte Richey 18, Miguel Pineda 13, Thomas Smith 4, Cameron Kight 4, Anthony Campbell 3, Malcolm Dingle 2.