Burke goes wild for 31 as Herald No. 1 Lady Bearcats down Lady Panthers in region opener

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

AMERICUS -- Here's a tip for the University of Illinois: When Bainbridge's Alexis Burke gets to Champaign next season -- be sure to start her in the Big Ten opener.

Because no one likes opening night like Burke.

Just look at the way she destroyed Americus-Sumter on Friday in the Region 1-AAAA opener, scoring 16 points, pulling down eight rebounds, making two 3s, blocking two shots, dishing out an assist and swiping two steals.

And that was just in the first quarter.

"Awesome, awesome, awesome. That's what she is,'' said Bainbridge coach Latreisha Moon, who watched her Herald No. 1-ranked girls team beat their rival, the Lady Panthers, 73-56, on Friday -- and it took a furious fourth quarter from Americus-Sumter just to make it that close.

Bainbridge (16-2, 1-0) led by as much as 35 as Burke's opening act helped the Lady Bearcats go up, 30-9, after the first quarter. Burke scored the first 11 points in just 2 minutes. She went to halftime with 23 points 11 rebounds and three blocks, then took it easy, finishing the night with 31 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and four steals.

"I don't think she missed a shot in the first half,'' Americus-Sumter coach Evelyn Wright said.

Well, actually, she missed three, going 10 for 13 from the field.

"But it's not just one player for them,'' Wright said. "Look at (April Thomas, 17 points). They can shoot, and they are fast with quick feet."

Americus-Sumter (7-10 and 0-1) has young feet. Wright doesn't have a senior on her team and for most of the night she had three or four freshmen on the floor. Junior Jayme Gilbert led the Lady Panthers with 20 points, but it appeared as if nothing was going to slow down Bainbridge -- or Burke.

"I knew this was an important game because it was the region opener,'' said Burke, who signed with Illinois early. "So I came with the mindset that it was time for me to put the team on my back and carry them like a leader.

"It was the first region game and we didn't want to beat them by two or four points. We wanted to come out strong. We did all the little things tonight and let the game come to us. That's why we won, because we did the little things. That's what separates us from the other teams in the region -- the little things. ''

There's nothing little about Burke's future, or Bainbridge's

"If we keep playing like this, something big could happen,'' Moon said. "Big things could happen."