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Tigers starting off with a bang
Bradwells Michael Burnett and Reasha Stokes (3) battle against an Effingham player during a game last season. According to coach Rhett Hellgren, Stokes has made significant improvements during the offseason. - photo by Courier file photo

Bradwell Institute will open its regular basketball season tonight by hosting crosstown rival Liberty County High School.
The action begins with the girls’ game at 6:30 p.m., and the boys will take the court immediately after in front of what is expected to be a large crowd at the Tiger’s gym.

Bradwell coach Rhett Hellgren is entering his second season as the varsity head coach after leading the team to a 13-12 overall record and a 9-5 Region 3B-AAAAA mark. Included in the wins was a 58-51 victory over Liberty. As he looked to tonight’s game and the season ahead, he said his team needs to work on rebounding.
“With three guys in the top eight that are going to be playing varsity this year being 6-foot-3, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, and the rest of the squad being around 5-foot-9, you can understand why it would be a concern for us,” he said.
In addition to grabbing rebounds, he said a recent scrimmage against Coffee County showed his team needs to be selective in shooting.
“We have to work on taking better shots,” he said. “A better shot does not mean taking the first good shot, but making one more pass for the better shot. When our guys take better shots, they don’t miss.”
The coach added that he has been impressed with the team’s work ethic and has seen significant improvement in senior Reasha Stokes.
“He has worked tremendously hard, and I am very proud of what he has done since last year,” the coach said. “He really has improved his game.”
Hellgren looks forward to this evening’s challenge against Liberty County, but doesn’t buy into bragging rights. The coach sees tonight’s game as another opportunity to play against a formidable team and gradually improve his team for region games ahead.
“It should be a fun and exciting night,” he said.

Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker took the girls to a 15-13 overall season and 12-3 region record last year.
The team lost Leitia Leiataua, Kelissa Hargrove and Kayla Rocker to graduation. That means this year’s squad is sophomore- and junior-heavy.
“There is a lot of teaching going on because we do have a lot of younger players,” Baker said. “Right now, I have five sophomores out here and they have a lot of potential, but there is a lot of teaching involved. We got a couple of transfer kids that have to learn our system as well … It will be a while before everything starts clicking together, but I really like how hard they’ve been working. I like their attitude. They are a great bunch of girls, and I think that as long as they continue working hard some good things will come.”
The Lady Tigers scrimmaged Coffee County last Saturday, and Baker said the team looked rough around the edges and didn’t play as well as she had hoped.
“We missed a lot of chip shots, and we turned the ball over against their press, but I have to take some of the blame for some of that … We had only worked on our press offense for one day, and there were a lot of things we just hadn’t had the time to put into place yet,” she said. “I can’t blame the kids for all the mistakes that happened last Saturday.”
Baker said Coffee County was a good test for the girls. She said she knew the Lady Trojans would be athletic and competitive and those are the types of teams she wants her team to challenge.
“It did give us a chance to see our strengths and definitely gave us an opportunity to see where we are weak, and those are the things we have been working on this week,” Baker said.
Baker knows the Liberty girls will come ready to attack tonight.
“I have a lot of respect for coach (Carolyn Kelly) and her program and I know they will be a very tough opponent,” Baker said, adding she knows everyone will be hyped up for the game. “It is a good challenge for our girls. Liberty will be tough. They are a veteran team and have great athletes, especially with Brianna Reese who is a great athlete and the return of Kymberli Payno, who will be formidable on the inside, and Tia Fleming … She really scorched us last year, so it is going to be a tough.”
Baker added the crowd likely will play a factor.
“It is going to be a big factor to overcome for our kids … But again it’s just one game and it’s not a region game, and I just want the girls to go out there and just execute, play better than we did last week and try and do the things that we are asking them to do and then let the chips fall where they may,” she said.

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