Bravettes dance into the Elite 8, now have another home playoff game
Baldwin Bravettes Head Coach Kizzi Walker certainly felt the pressure, but she didn't want her players to feel the pressure.
It's pressure that Simmons felt going all the back to her BHS playing days in the '90s, when the teams she played with never seemed to be able to get past the Sweet 16. It's also been the same theme since Simmons took over as head coach of the Bravettes in 2017.
Around 8:30 Friday night, however, Walker could finally breathe, as Baldwin stopped Stephenson 71-63 to advance past the Sweet 16 and into the Elite 8 of in the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament at Lunsford Gym.
Stephenson actually led Baldwin 34-29 at halftime, and the fans in the gym were getting nervous. It was actually a pair of ninth grader post players that came up big for Baldwin in the second half – Janaye Walker and Kassidy Neal. Both ladies were way more physical and skilled than the post players for Stephenson, even though the Stevenson players were way older. The two freshmen dominated in the paint in the second half. Tamia Smith, the only senior on the team and a 1,000-point scorer, also drained a 3-pointer that gave the Bravettes their first lead. Star player Madison Ruff, a sophomore guard, also helped propel the comeback.
"Relief! I have relief, because we've never made it past this round," Walker said after the game. "The difference was heart. (At halftime) we just told them to play one play at a time. The first three minutes of the second half would dictate everything, and they were ready."
The good news now gets even better, as Baldwin hosts another home game. The Elite 8 matchup will pit the Bravettes against the Northwest Whitfield Lady Bruins from Tunnell Hill, a small town outside of Dalton in north Georgia. The Lady Bruins won their region, but they will have to travel to Milledgeville after a "universal coin toss" before the playoffs started gave home court advantage to teams on the "left side" of the bracket, which is where Baldwin is. The Lady Bruins were not ranked in the final Class AAAA poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the regular season, but they did win their region.
The game will be played at Lunsford Gym either Tuesday or Wednesday.