GHSA CLASS AAAA BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT: Herald No. 1 Bearcats stunned in Sweet 16; win streak snapped at 24 games

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

BAINBRIDGE -- One bad night.

That's all it took for Bainbridge High's 24-game winning streak and playoff run to come to an end.

The Bearcats were below freezing cold in the first half and couldn't find enough heat to battle back Wednesday in a 67-59 loss to Lovejoy in the GHSA Class AAAA Sweet 16.

"It just wasn't our night," Bainbridge head coach Rickey McCullough said.

The Bearcats (27-3) trailed by as many as 21 in the second half and leading scorer Devon Baulkmon started the game 1-for-9 from the floor. Bainbridge trailed, 40-26, at halftime even after Rohan Gaines buried a shot from half court at the buzzer.

"We got behind and got a little frustrated," said McCullough, whose team had lost only one game at home in the last three years before Tuesday. "We didn't guard like we guarded all year long. With a 24-game winning streak, sometimes they get complacent."

Meanwhile, Lovejoy (26-4) did what nobody else had done all season. They held Baulkmon to just four points in the first half, although he scored 22 in the second, hitting 10-for-24 from the floor to close his amazing Bearcats career with 26 points, nine rebounds and five steals.

"We got some film on him and saw that he's a damn good player," Lovejoy head coach Rick Francis said of defending Baulkmon. "Whenever he didn't have the ball we were face guarding him. We wanted to reduce the amount of catches he got. We didn't double team him, but we made it as hard as possible."

The Herald No. 1 Bearcats took a 1-0 lead to open the game and never led again. Lovejoy led by double-figures the entire second half until Baulkmon scored eight points in the final 1:30 to close the gap. But it was too late.

Bainbridge got 12 points and six boards from junior Rodney Glenn.

Rohan Gaines had eight at halftime but didn't score in the second half. Shawn Samuels, another scoring threat usually for Bainbridge, finished with 5.

"In the playoffs, it's win or go home," McCullough said. "One bad night. I didn't think we'd have it here (at home)."

Lovejoy had nearly every player on its 10-deep score. Jermaine Hough led the Wildcats with 14 points, while Justin Green had 13 points. Justin Tuoyo, the Wildcats' 6-foot-8 post, scored just six but had eight rebounds and six blocks, making it nearly impossible for Bainbridge inside.

"We've got a balanced group," said Francis, whose team advances to the Elite Eight at Fort Valley State Friday to play the Fayette County-Banneker winner. "The best part about it is we only started one senior."

The Bearcats, meanwhile, lose seven seniors and four starters next season. McCullough, though, is hopeful another star is waiting in the wings.

"We lose some good ones, but hopefully I'm in a place where somebody will want to be the next Devon Baulkmon or the next Shawn Samuels," he said.