The 16th annual Donell Woods Basketball Tournament at Bradwell Saturday afternoon gave spectators something they’ve been longing to see for the last four years, a game between Liberty County High School and Bradwell Institute.
In the end, the Tigers swept the event as the boys’ junior varsity squad finished off the LCHS ninth-grade squad 62-35.
The Lady Tiger junior varsity squad broke a two-game losing streak, defeating the Lady Atomsmashers 41-16 and taking their second Donell Woods crown in a row.
The Lady Tiger junior varsity squad had a revenge victory as the Lady Atomsmashers defeated the Tiger squad Friday night in Savannah. The 25-point win the next day at home was bittersweet for junior varsity coach Dana King. Friday’s loss in Savannah was his squad’s second loss in a row, having lost to Brunswick Jan. 10. King said those losses were the first in two seasons. He said defeating the Lady Atomsmashers was sweet revenge.
This year the JV Lady Tigers are 6-2.
King said his two losses were due to a long Christmas break for the JV squad. He said by the time they played again they were a bit rusty. As they prepare for the rest of the season King said there is still work to do.
"We just got to hustle a little bit more," he said. "Like I tell them, the thing that we can control is how hard we hustle. No one should come into our house and out hustle us. We control and that is what we need to work on. I think I need to work them a little bit harder as far as their skills like ball handling and their shots. I always tell them put your hand in the cookie jar and that is how you know you got a good shot. Or put the ball in the top inside corner when you hit your layup. Once they get those fundamentals down right there we will be all right."
The boys junior varsity squads from LCHS and Bradwell fought their way past Wayne County, McIntosh and Johnson High to get to the championship game. Despite a close first half, the Tigers ran up the score in the second, making a 10-point, unanswered run in the third and closing the third ahead by 17. The Tigers kept the Panther squad scoreless for the fourth for the 62-35 win and the first place trophy.
"I feel good," JV coach Kashien Latham said. "In my eyes I expected us to win. I thought we played pretty well. We had some ups and downs but you can see how happy the guys are that they won. Nobody likes losing and we had that tough loss last night (against Johnson in Savannah) so this erases that tough loss and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and finish the season sharp."
The JV boys are 10-3.
The game meant more than who hoisted the first place trophy. For the fans it was a sign that maybe a varsity game between the two schools could be forthcoming.
"I’m not against it," board of education Chairwoman Lily Baker said. "I like the sportsmanship. I coached at Liberty for nine years and we loved the rivalry. And I think most of the coaches enjoyed the rivalry. Of course we know it was stopped because of safety issues but maybe it is something we can revisit."
Baker, a relative of Donell Woods, said she hoped the board as a whole, along with the coaches and staff of both high schools, would consider the option in the future, saying, "If it’s a decision we feel is best and can be worked out between the high schools, hopefully there can be a return of it."
As for the tournament in honor of Woods, Baker said, "It says a lot about the sportsmanship of Liberty County and it says a lot about Donell. He loved children and he loved basketball. It shows the unity of this community and I think Liberty County is a great community and our children reflect that. We as adults maybe need to work on some issues, but our children actually do get along."