The ball was in the court of both teams Friday night.
Though the Baldwin girls’ basketball team was at home for its 18th annual Girl’s Holiday Tournament, it has a fairly new starting lineup and faced undefeated Longwood.
But the Bruins brought it home.
Baldwin defeated Longwood, 56-47, in a non-league game, letting everyone know the Bruins still are one of the top teams, despite the new faces.
“The win put in people’s minds where Baldwin is right now,” forward Elena Randolph said. “It’s important to show people what we can do and that we’re coming back strong.”
Said guard Alexis Aponte: “The win means a lot to us. We wanted to come out tonight and show everyone that Baldwin is still the same Baldwin. We’re the same hardworking kids and we’re ready for anything.”
Aponte and Randolph are among the new starters on a team that went 26-1 last season. The program won its second straight Class AA state title and the Federation tournament (although Randolph was the sixth woman on that squad).
However, neither was afraid of the limelight Friday. Randolph played excellent defense, holding one of Longwood’s best players to single-digit points.
Aponte was 3-for-3 from behind the three-point arc and totaled 14 points, seven rebound and four assists.
“I don’t make those shots often,” Aponte said with a laugh. “But I’ve been working on my three-point range and it was nice to make some of them.”
Baldwin (3-1) maintained the lead throughout the game. With two minutes left in the third quarter, Longwood (5-1) was within striking distance after a steal and a layup by Janelle Brown (13 points), followed by her three-pointer.
It seemed as if Longwood had captured the momentum, but the Bruins tightened up on defense.
“We never put our heads down,” Kaia Harrison said. “Even when we saw them coming back, we have to remind ourselves to stay aggressive and remain tough-minded."
Harrison, Baldwin's lone returning starter, was the leading scorer with 16 points. She ended the game on a high note by hitting a three and tantalizing the crowd with her dribbling skills.
“Last year’s team set the bar really high,” Harrison said. “We ended up being No. 4 in the country. Although the seniors graduated, they still left their mark on us. The win today helped us develop more as a team and gave us a sneak peek into the season.”
“We reflect on last year to keep us motivated," Randolph said. "Our program always stays the same. It’s Baldwin basketball.”