Bradley Central continued its recent dominance of Southeast Tennessee girls basketball by claiming its third straight Region 3-AAA championship Wednesday evening at the Raider Dome.
Getting dominating performances from their “Twin Towers,” the third-ranked Bearettes were able to hold off a determined Cinderella White County squad for a 53-42 victory to claim the title and earn the right to host Saturday night’s TSSAA Sectional Game against fourth-ranked Blackman.
Six-foot-2 juniors Brooke Copeland and Rebecca Reuter combined for 42 points, 24 rebounds and five blocked shots in the region title game to match the Warriorette offensive output.
“I’m proud of these girls, this is three in a row. We’ve been very fortunate to have this opportunity,” praised head coach Jason Reuter who is 87-10 since taking over the storied program three years ago.
Bradley (28-2), which won its third straight District 5-AAA crown a week ago, will face a Blackman squad that is 26-4 on the season with all four of the losses coming to defending state champion Riverdale (31-0), which is ranked No. 2 in the nation by MaxPreps.
“The bad news is some people think the second-best team in the state may be Blackman. I know they’re not second in the polls, but their only losses this year have come to Riverdale,” Reuter stated.
“All we can do is control our destiny, like I’ve told people all year and tournament long. We don’t have to beat all of them, just the ones we face.”
White County (21-12) will travel to Murfreesboro to face Riverdale in another of the eight sectional games across the state Saturday.
After a basket by District 5-AAA Player of the Year Brooke Copeland got her team on the board first with a driving basket and a pair of free throws, the Bearettes found themselves trailing White County by the four-minute mark.
An old-fashioned three-point play from junior Rebecca Rueter with just over a minute left in the first period finally got the lead back for the Black-and-Gold.
With only an 11-9 lead going into the second period, the Bearettes quickly got to work to increase their scoreboard advantage.
The Bradley Central defense was able to stall the Warriorettes offense, not allowing them any points until three minutes into the second period.
With just under three minutes remaining in the half, the Bearettes led the long distance visitors 22-13, but the Warriorettes battled back fiercely, netting three straight 3-pointers to decrease their deficit to even the score.
Copeland was able to hit another shot from the lane for her 14th first half point to give Bradley a slim 24-22 lead heading into the locker rooms.
“We have had a hard time of handling success when we have it in the game,” Reuter commented. “We seem to let up and make mistakes and invented ways to let them back into the game.”
Senior sharpshooter Kayla Withrow got the second half off to a positive start for the Bearettes with the first of two treys in the frame to stretch the lead to five, but once again White County answered with game’s next two baskets to pull back within a point.
While the Bearettes are known for their offensive prowess, their defense is just as potent, holding the Warriorettes to just one field goal over the next nine minutes while Bradley pushed its lead to a dozen points with just over four minutes left in the contest.
The two teams then traded points the rest of the way with the Bearettes able to post their third double-digit victory of the season over the girls from Sparta.
“I don’t think this was a pretty game by any means, but this time of year it’s not pretty all the time. Once we hit the tournament trail, if we won every game by one (point) I’ll take it,” commented coach Reuter.
Copeland led the Bearettes with a total of 29 points, 11 caroms and four steals, while Reuter also had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, plus she four blocked shots.
Both Copeland and Reuter were named to the all-tournament team, along with Withrow.
White County outshined Bradley in 3-pointers, shooting 5-of-14 with Kelsey Roberts draining three and Loren Foster adding the other two.
The Bearettes went 3-for-12 from distance, with Withrow drilling a pair and fellow senior Brandi Whitted netting the other.
The Black-and-Gold were 12-for-14 at the free-throw line, while the Warriorettes struggled making only 9-of-14.
During the game, the Bearettes had 30 rebounds and 11 turnovers, while White County had 13 rebounds and 10 turnovers.
The substate matchup between Bradley and Blackman will take place at “The Jim” Saturday night at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to get to work. I don’t have much time. Blackman will be a great challenge and I don’t think anybody from Blackman is going to be feeling sorry for us if we lose that game,” Reuter stated. “I hope our fans will come out and support us. We need a huge crowd there Saturday. Lets get Jim Smiddy Arena rocking a little bit.”
Region 3-AAA Championship Game
White County 9 13 9 11 — 42
Bradley Central 11 13 14 15 — 53
WARRIORETTES (42) — Kelsey Roberts 15, Allyson Quillen 11, Foster 9, Wilson 3, Hudgens 2, King 2, Lewis, Taylor.
BEARETTES (53) — Brooke Copeland 29, Rebecca Reuter 13, Withrow 6, Whitted 3, Donaldson 2, Davis, Carroll.
3-POINTERS: White County 5 (Roberts 3, Foster 2); Bradley 3 (Withrow 2, Whitted).
FREE THROWS: White County 9-of-13; Bradley 12-of-14.
RECORDS: White County 21-12; Bradley 28-2.
All Region 3-AAA Team
Brooke Copeland (Bradley Central), Kayla Withrow (Bradley Central), Rebecca Reuter (Bradley Central), Keke Smith (McMinn County), Hailey Ward (McMinn County), Hannah Goolsby (Cookeville), Sydney Robinson (Cookeville) Allyson Quillen (White County), Loren Foster (White County), Kelsey Roberts (White County).