YEAR IN REVIEW: Braves break their championship drought, and we're not talking Atlanta
It was the shot that little kids grow up dreaming about in the driveway.
William Freeman took a deep breath, dribbled twice towards the free throw line and rose up as high as he possibly could, draining the jump shot that gave the Baldwin High boys their first state championship in 40 years.
For many years, Milledgeville was considered a basketball town, complete with a “WELCOME TO THE BASKETBALL CAPITOL OF GEORGIA” road sign that was located at the city limits on North Columbia Street. That road sign eventually faded and came down, however, and Milledgeville gradually became more of a football town. In 2021, however, the Baldwin High boys basketball team woke up some of those old echoes, reminding people of what the local sports scene used to look like.
The old adage is “work smarter, not harder.” The 2020-2021 Baldwin boys basketball team did both. They simply out-hustled, outwitted and outlasted all opponents. Perhaps most telling is the number of dunks, or a lack thereof, that the Braves had this season. Baldwin wasn’t throwing alley-oops and blocking shots into the bleachers and appearing in a bunch of Youtube videos. Instead, the Braves were playing smart team defense and moving the ball on offense. The Braves were a throwback to a time when basketball skill and basketball intelligence were greater than athleticism and hype.
Also of note is the sheer amount of hustle. Fayette County, for example, was bigger, stronger and faster, and yet Baldwincontrolled the boards and had the rebounding advantage in the state championship. This season, Baldwin seemed to get to 80 to 90 percent of “50-50 balls,” the kind of hustle plays that illustrated how bad Baldwin’s kids wanted it.