Players dream of moments when the game is on the line and they have the chance to take the winning shot at the end.
But Bradwell freshman point guard Shaquioa Crockett wasn’t dreaming when she drove the lane and kissed the ball off the glass for a lay up to give the Lady Tigers a 41-39 win against No. 4 seed Lowndes in the first round of the state playoffs Friday in Hinesville.
From the outset, it was clear this game wasn’t going to be easy for BI or their fans. Though the contest was scheduled for a 6 p.m. start, the officials arrived 45 minutes late. When they took the floor near 7 p.m., the restless crowd applauded.
Bradwell took the opening tip and, four passes later, Crockett drove the lane for a lay up. The Lady Tigers then set up their lethal press, but the Lady Vikettes ran right through it.
"We knew after the first possession that our press would not be effective. So we went to more of a half court trap which allowed us a few turnovers," BI coach Faye Baker said.
The Lady Tigers had a 9-7 lead early in the first quarter off a pair of Mariah Maternik 3-pointers. After the opening minutes of the game, Maternik did not get many open looks at the basket because Lowndes played her tight and she had to force her way through the defense to even catch a pass.
Lowndes used quickness and strong defense to create turnovers. The Lady Vikettes beat Bradwell on the boards and used offensive rebounds to create extra offensive possessions. The Lady Vikettes transition game gave them a 17-13 lead late in the second quarter.
Bradwell struggled in the first half against the Lowndes 2-3 zone.
Lowndes made a point to bump every cutter into the zone, which disrupted the flow of the Lady Tiger offense.
Trailing Lowndes 23-19, Bradwell was fighting for every loose ball and trying to get hands on all passes. Maternik found an open Crockett on the baseline to cut the lead to 23-31. KeAndrea Frasier forced a steal and Maternik scored in transition in the final seconds for a 23-23 tie at the half.
The third quarter has been Bradwell’s all season and Friday night was no exception, though it looked like the Vikettes might change that.
Lowndes scored the first five points of the quarter and kept a lead during most of the third quarter.
Bradwell had to battle through the adversity of turnovers, missed shots and mental errors.
The Lady Tigers got the ball in the final seconds of the third quarter. Frasier got the ball at the arc and buried a 3-pointer giving the Lady Tigers its first lead of the second half, 32-31. The shot electrified the crowd and the gym just exploded as the Lady Tigers went to the bench to prepare for the final quarter.
"We have told them all season that we have to win the third quarter. KeAndra’s shot was huge. It completely changed the momentum of the game for us," Baker said.
Lowndes regained the lead 33-32 by sinking a pair of free throws in the first minutes of the fourth quarter. Maternik then broke free but missed a lay up. She grabbed the rebound and drove the base line for a reverse lay up and a 34-33 Lady Tigers lead.
The game remained nip and tuck as both teams guarded every offensive possession as it might be their final one of the year.
"What really helped us in the fourth quarter is we decided to make a change and face guard Lowndes’ top scorer and force the rest of the team to try to beat us. By putting that much pressure on her, we were able to get some turnovers down the stretch," Baker said.
Lowndes tied the game 39-39 with a minute to go. Bradwell was able to grab a turnover and Baker called a timeout with 40 seconds left in the game.
Facing the same tenacious defensive pressure from Lowndes, Bradwell relied on handoffs to protect the ball instead of passes.
Protecting the ball, Crockett made her cut through with eight seconds left for the go ahead 41-39 victory.
"We told them protect the ball and watch the clock. Start making a move towards the basket around the eight to 10 second mark and it worked because they got the ball with about two seconds left. We did not want to go to overtime. We are so proud of the girls tonight. We made some mistakes but we did what we had to do to win. We played good possession basketball tonight. If Lowndes was the fourth seed out of their region, I would hate to see what the first seed was like," Baker said.
Maternik had to bang, bump and create her way to a game-leading 19 points. Crockett finished with 10 points.
Bradwell will face the McEachren Lady Indians Tuesday night at home. Coming out of region 2-AAAAA, McEachren defeated Westlake, 63-55.
"We will take a day off to rest our legs. We will hit it hard two days to get ready and play Tuesday. We have got to work on ball protection more and we know that blocking out becomes more important every game in the playoffs," Baker said.
Bradwell Institute 41
Bradwell- Mariah Maternik 19, Shaquioa Crockett 10, KeAndra Frasier 3, Quinaka Hatchell 3, Quintunya Chapman 3, LaTisha Frasier 3, Symone May 3, Leitia Leitaua 3