The Bradwell Institute girls’ basketball team capped a perfect regular season with a perfect run through the Region 3-AAAAA tournament, holding off Beach, 57-48, on Saturday to claim the tourney title and a No. 1 seed heading into the state playoffs.
The region championship game began as a typical Lady Tigers blitzkrieg. Senior guard Mariah Maternik scored to open the game, and though Beach matched the first basket, Bradwell turned up the defensive pressure and ran out to a 9-2 lead.
Beach coach Ronald Booker called a time-out and tried to fix what his club was doing wrong, but Bradwell’s Shaquioa Crockett scored on a pair of layups.
The Lady Tigers forced three more turnovers and Maternik hit a pair of shots around the arc to push BI’s lead to 18-2. Beach took its second time-out of the quarter to try to regroup.
"I was really surprised that we were able to build as big of a lead as we did in the first quarter," BI coach Faye Baker said. "It was a pleasant surprise because the last two times we played them we were down 13 at half and tied at half. We really came out shooting the ball well tonight."
Bradwell continued to dominate through the second quarter.
Beach did show some signs of life, but Maternik had back-to-back baskets in the final minute of the second quarter and Bradwell took a comfortable 34-19 lead into the half.
Bradwell opened the third quarter with Leitia Leiataua grabbing a steal and hitting Crockett for a layup.
Maternik added a trey on the next possession and the rout was on. The Lady Tigers’ transition and perimeter game was too much for Beach.
Down 57-41, the Lady Bulldogs were able to use their athleticism to intercept some passes and create some turnovers. Beach was strong in transition in the final minutes of the game.
"We fully expected Beach to make a run at us. They are too good of a basketball team to not to be able to do that at any point of the game. We were very fortunate to have built a large enough lead that we could sustain the run at the end," Baker said.
Maternik led all scorers with 21 points. Crockett tallied 15 points. KeAndra Frasier finished with 11 points.
Baker was named the Region 3-AAAAA girls coach of the year, and Maternik was voted the Region 3-AAAAA girls player of the year. Maternik also was named to the all-region all-tournament first team and earned the tournament MVP. Freshman point guard Crockett was voted to the all-region first team and all-tournament team.
"Mariah lives to play on a big stage like a region championship game," Baker said. "She has been like that since she was a freshman. She does a great job of creating her shot. She can drive to the basket and beat people off the dribble. She can shoot over the top of the defender. If someone does not pick her up on the switch she will find an opening or will get the ball to someone else."
With the regular season and a region title behind them, the Lady Tigers now can focus on a Class AAAAA title. Bradwell will begin its quest Friday night at home against Region 1 fourth seed Lowndes County.
The Vikettes have a 21-6 record and previously had been ranked as high as 10th in the GACA poll. Lowndes has height sprinkled throughout its roster, which definitely is a concern for Baker.
"We haven’t seen a lot of height this year, and when we did we struggled with it at times. If we face a team that has decent height, we have got to really work hard and blocking out keeping them off the boards. They are coming from Region 1 and that has traditionally been a good region, so we are going to have to play. We will enjoy the win tonight against Beach and get ready to hard for the playoffs come Tuesday," she said.
BI top scorers: Mariah Maternik 21, Shaquoia Crockett 15, Leiataua 5, Keandra Frasier 11, Leitia Leiataua 5, Quinaka Hatchell 2, Quintunya Chapman 2, Jordan McCallister 1.