It was full speed ahead Tuesday as the Bradwell Lady Tigers tipped-off against the Lady Lions of Luella High School at home for the Sweet 16 showdown. The match ended with everyone holding their breath and the Lady Tigers holding a 1-point advantage to win 57-56, sending them to the Elite Eight this weekend.
Lady Tiger scoring started with Mariah Maternik hitting 2 from the line and ended with Maternik throwing from the line again, making just enough buckets to stay ahead by 1 at the buzzer, despite a 3-point shot by a Lady Lion.
"It’s uncanny to believe that she is only a sophomore and has that much poise on the floor," Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker said. "She doesn’t turn the ball over much. She does a good job in reading defenses and it’s just a natural thing for her."
After Maternik’s free throw shots in the first quarter, the Lady Tigers quickly put up another 4 points on forced turnovers.
But Lady Lion Neisha Benjamin tied the game when she hit one from the line, sank a layup and nailed a three-pointer. The Lions scored another 7 to the Tigers 3 to close the first ahead by 4.
The squads exchanged leads in the second and the Lady Tigers rallied to close the third up by 6. In the fourth, the Lady Tigers extended the lead by 10 points, but Luella closed the gap to trail by 2 with less than a minute left.
The Lady Lions fouled Maternik twice, and twice she was 1 of 2. It was enough to stay ahead even though Benjamin hit a three.
Lady Tiger Brytnii Speight had a double-double, hitting 13 points and 16 rebounds for the night. Maternik chipped in 14 points and Seandre Lee led with 16 points.
"I’m just glad that we were able to come out of here with a win," Baker said. "I don’t care if it was by half a point I’m glad to come out with a win tonight. They are coming out of the same region as Redan and Stephenson and powerhouses like that. We knew that a fourth seed in that region was going to be very tough. They are very athletic and they run the floor well."
Baker said the Lady Lions put a lot of pressure on Maternik throughout the game so she was happy her reserves were able to hold strong.
"That was very, very important," she said. "Because at that point I thought Mariah (Maternik) was a little winded and she needed a break. LaNiqua Fowler and Mei-Sean Lee, those girls came in and they gave us a lot of energy and they were able to cause some key turnovers in the third quarter and that was very crucial."
She added Speight’s 16 rebounds were also crucial.
"She is a leaper," Baker said. "She can get up and I told her we needed her to play that type of ball game tonight and she did."
Baker said her squad will continue to prepare for Redan as they’ve prepared all season. She said being in the state playoffs last season helped her squad mature.
"The one thing that helped this team is that most of the players were returners from last year when we went to the Sweet 16," she said. "They knew what the state playoffs were like and the caliber of teams that we would face and we used that as a catalyst to work hard during the off season. I think the experience of them going to the Sweet 16 last year really paid off."
Quarter-Finals at Fort Valley State, Class AAAAA Basketball Tournament Saturday:
Bradwell Institute Lady Tigers vs Redan High School Lady Raiders, 4 p.m.
Valdosta High School Wildcats vs Newton High School Rams, 5:30 p.m.
Beach High School Lady Bulldogs vs Westlake High School Lady Lions, 7 p.m.
Savannah High School Blue Jackets vs Westlake High School Lions, 8:30 p.m.
Admission is $10