COLLEGEDALE — After welcoming District 5-AAA newcomer East Hamilton to the league with a pair of blowouts, both Bradley Central basketball teams wrapped up the first half of the conference schedule atop the district standings.
“Our guys have been playing with a good, hard effort every night and for us to be 6-0 after the first swing through the district is huge,” declared head coach Chuck Clark after his Bears calmed the Hurricanes by a 65-50 margin.
Thanks to a victory by archrival Cleveland High (8-5, 4-2) over Ooltewah (10-6, 4-2) Tuesday evening, Bradley (10-7, 6-0) has a two-game lead in the district boys race.
Meanwhile, a 63-33 runaway over East Hamilton keeps the Bearettes (12-5, 5-1) tied with Walker Valley (11-5, 5-1) for first place in the 5-AAA girls’ standings.
The two county rivals will meet again Friday at Jim Smiddy Arena to tip off the second swing through the district. The Lady Mustangs upset the favored Bearettes 45-38 in their December meeting, while the Bears got a last-second shot for a 56-54 victory over the Mustangs in a game that featured 14 lead changes.
Despite being just 5-11 on the season, Coach Clark knew East Hamilton is a “pretty good club with a lot of talent” and the Hurricanes would come out swinging Tuesday evening.
“They have district wins over Cleveland, Soddy-Daisy and McMinn, so they are a good team,” the Bear mentor stated. “I came down here last Friday and watched them against Walker Valley and they got embarrassed (a 55-27 loss), so I knew they’d come out fighting tonight.”
After the Canes scored the game’s first five points, sophomore Bradley McCurdy got the Black-and-Gold going with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to even the score and spark a 15-3 Bear run.
The more than three minute streak was capped by a behind-the -back pass by junior Daniel Clark to senior Taylor Bentley for a fast-break basket and then McCurdy stole the inbounds pass and quickly put the ball back through the hoop.
After calling a timeout to stem the tide, East Hamilton used its height advantage for a basket in the lane and then got a buzzer beater from 3-point land to close the gap to 15-13 at the end of the opening period.
To start the second frame, the hosts once again netted the first five points but it would turn out to be their last lead of the night as freshman Cole Copeland put in seven of the Bears’ next nine points to spark a 17-4 run for a 10-point halftime advantage.
“Cole (Copeland) is just a freshman but he doesn’t play like one. He’s much wiser than his years and plays with a lot of poise and confidence,” praised Coach Clark. “Bradley (McCurdy) is also young, only a sophomore, but he has a lot of raw talent and does some things you don’t expect and they work out for him.”
After East Hamilton trimmed the difference to seven points early in the third period, the Bears held the home team scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes, while filling the nylon for a dozen points themselves to push the advantage to its highest point at 19.
The Canes fought back with an old-fashioned three-point play to close the third period and spark a 12-3 run to pull within 11 points, but that was as close as they would come as Bradley held off the late charge for the 15-point victory.
“We were able to take advantage of some mismatches, plus we only turned the ball over six times and had a better than 2-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio,” commented Coach Clark, whose team also put pressure on the hosts for 19 turnovers.
McCurdy led all scorers with 19 points, plus he grabbed a half dozen rebounds, four off the offensive glass, and copped four steals. Bentley collected a dozen points and four assists, while Daniel Clark added 10 markers and a pair of helps.
Copeland added nine points and a couple of thefts in the victory, while senior Dee Crisp came off the bench to garner four points, five steals and a pair of blocks.
LADY CANES 33
The Bradley girls wasted no time establishing their dominance, scoring the game’s first 15 points on their way to a 24-5 advantage by the close of the first period.
University of Florida signee Brooke Copeland sizzled the nylon for 14 of her game-high 26 points in the first eight-minute span, including two of her three 3-pointers on the evening.
The tenacious Bearette defense continued in the second frame, allowing the hosts to get off just four shots, making only one, as the difference stretched to 33-7 at the intermission.
Copeland and fellow NCAA D-I signee (Middle Tennessee) Rebecca Reuter put the game away in the third period as they combined for 14 points, 10 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots before heading to the bench for the rest of the night.
When the dust settled on the 30-point victory, Copeland had added 11 caroms, four assists, three steals and two blocks to her total, while Reuter finished with eight points, eight boards, two helps and a pair of blocks. Freshman Halle Hughes came off the bench to garner 11 points, a trio of rebounds and three thefts.
“We had a good team effort and everybody got to play,” assessed Bearette head coach Jason Reuter. “We did a good job and made good passes for assists, plus our defense put a lot of pressure on them (12 steals in 23 Lady Cane turnovers).”
A dozen players made it onto the court for Bradley, with senior Lyndsey Davis the lone exception as she is still recovering from a concussion suffered in practice last week.
Bradley Central 24 9 18 12 — 63
East Hamilton 5 2 13 13 — 33
BEARETTES (63) — Brooke Copeland 26, Halle Hughes 11, Reuter 8, Gaither 6, Summars 6, Stallings 3, E.K. Brown 3, K. Brown, Hubbard, Delane, McRee, Brumfiel.
LADY HURRICANES (33) — Rhyne Howard 12, Maggie Woods 10, Wood 4, Giles 3, Zeh 2, Stovall 2, Petitt, Candle, Denton, Blade, Maston.
3-POINTERS: Bradley 7 (Copeland 3, Summars 2, Stallings, E.K. Brown); EH 4 (Woods 2, Howard, Giles).
FREE THROWS: Bradley 4-of-8; EH 7-of-13.
RECORDS: Bradley 12-5, 5-1 District 5-AAA; East Hamilton 2-14, 0-6 District 5-AAA.
Bradley Central 15 17 16 17 — 65
East Hamilton 13 9 10 18 — 50
BEARS (65) — Bradley McCurdy 19, Taylor Bentley 12, Daniel Clark 10, Cole Copeland 9, Cox 5, Crisp 4, Maroon 3, Gregory 3, McGowan, Morgan, Ware.
HURRICANES (50) — Kenny Bunton 17, Wright 8, Brower 7, Lowery 7, Thompson 6. Wingard 3, Griffith 2.
3-POINTERS: Bradley 5 (McCurdy 2, Maroon, Cox, Copeland); EH 6 (Bunton 2, Wright 2,Wingard, Brower).
FREE THROWS: Bradley 8-of-12; EH 6-of-6.
RECORDS: Bradley 10-7, 6-0 District 5-AAA; East Hamilton 5-11, 3-3 District 5-AAA.