By JOE CANNON
GREENEVILLE — While it wasn’t the near doubling (63-32) of last year’s championship game, the end result was the same as Bradley Central claimed its second back-to-back titles at the Andrew …
GREENEVILLE — While it wasn’t the near doubling (63-32) of last year’s championship game, the end result was the same as Bradley Central claimed its second back-to-back titles at the Andrew Johnson Bank Ladies Classic in Greeneville.
For just the second time in the 29-year history of the prestigious tournament, the same two teams met for the championship and oddly enough Oak Ridge has come up on the short end of both back-to-back situations.
The Bearettes, which also won consecutive titles in 1993 and '94, wrapped up their fourth Ladies’ Classic crown, in a half dozen appearances, with a 56-48 win over the Lady Wildcats Saturday evening in Greeneville’s Hal Henard Gymnasium.
Oak Ridge, which won three straight crowns from 1996-98, plus captured back-to-back titles in 2001 and ’02, also fell to South Greene in 1991 and ’92.
Pushing their current winning steak to 16, along with victories in 79 of their last 82 games, Bradley will now turn its attention to the District 5-AAA race with archrival Cleveland High coming to Jim Smiddy Arena Friday.
While the Bearettes were adding another trophy to their case, the Bears were able to snap a four-game skid Saturday with a 62-54 win over Rock Hill, S.C.
In their final game at the King of the Smokies Christmas Classic, the Bradley boys were able to close 2017 on a winning note.
Now 6-8 on the campaign, the Bears will try to figure out a way to slow down the red-hot Blue Raiders (10-2), which just won the Cleveland Holiday Tournament crown.
LADY WILDCATS 48
Contrary to the night before against South Greene where they fell behind by 18 points in the first 10 minutes, Bradley roared out of the cave to net the game’s first seven points Saturday and built an 11-point advantage before the ’Cats came clawing back.
With Oak Ridge (10-4) scoring the final seven points of the opening frame, the Bearettes’s edge was trimmed to 15-11 at the first horn.
The second verse was same as the first as Bradley pumped in the opening five markers of the second frame before former Bearette Paige Redman’s “clowder” came charging back with eight unanswered points.
Oak Ridge was able to even the score with 52.7 seconds on the clock, but a nice feed underneath from tournament MVP Rhyne Howard to sophomore Alexis Barnes put the Black-and-Gold back up 30-28 at the intermission.
The Bearettes opened the second half with a long-range bomb from Howard, a steal by sophomore Anna Walker, who got the ball back to Howard, who swung it to junior Kaleigh Hughes for 3-ball from the corner and a quick eight-point lead.
As they did most of the night, Oak Ridge would scratch right back in it, this time with a 9-0 run to take its only lead with 3:51 on the third-quarter clock.
A minute later, Howard drove the lane for two more of her game-high 21 points to give the edge back to the Bearettes.
After a Lady Wildcat free throw evened the score for just the third time on the night, Howard drilled her third 3-pointer and Bradley never trailed again.
Leading 43-40 heading into the final eight-minute span, the champs were able to hold Oak Ridge at bay before sealing their second straight title by hitting 5-of-7 free throws, while allowing the ’Cats just on field goal attempt, in the final 90 seconds.
“If you had told me before this game that we’d shoot 38 percent from the floor and get out rebounded 34-18, I would have bet you that we’d lost,” commented Bradley coach Jason Reuter.
“Right now we are doing a very good job of turning people over and getting transition baskets. That’s making up for shortcomings we’re having in other areas.
“We only had six turnovers, which is a dream for most coaches, and we were able to turn them over 22 times and get 26 points off of them,” he added.
“The game before (against two-time defending state champion South Greene), we only had 10 (just four turnovers in the last three quarters) and turned them over 25 times for 28 points.
“Sometimes stats don’t measure wins and losses,” the veteran mentor remarked.
“We’re taking care of the ball. That’s why we’re winning. We’re winning because of our system, our grit and the fact we have a player like Rhyne Howard on our team,” he said of the Kentucky signee who added nine steals, five assists, three rebounds and a blocked shot to her scoring prowess.
“It’s no secret we have one superstar (Howard), but the other girls accepting their roles. Doing their jobs is the difference in us winning or losing.
“Our kids are willing to dive on the floor and play for each other. They play for that name on the front of their jerseys, not the one on the back. That makes the difference,” Coach Reuter praised after the Bearettes won their sixth straight tournament title, and 10th of their last 11.
“I’m a blessed man to have so many kids willing to work so hard to make us the best team we can be. Tonight we had to grit-it out, but I’m proud of our girls for winning a tournament like this.
“The Bearettes won a lot of ball games long before I took over (in 2010), so the tradition is rich. We’re just happy to be able to continue to do that,” said the man with the highest winning percentage (88.5, 216-28) in program history since World War II.
Helping out the title game victory, freshman Jamaryn Blair came off the bench to drill a pair of 3-pointers on her way to 10 points, two assists a rebound and a steal.
Walker collected eight points, five caroms and a theft.
Hughes netted a half dozen markers, dished a trio of “dimes,” cleared two boards and made a steal.
Howard (75 points, 24 rebounds, 24 steals, 22 assists, 4 blocked shots), Hughes (47 pts, 10 rebs, 11 asts, 2 steals) and Walker (37 pts, 21 rebs, 5 asts, 4 steals and 1 block) were all selected for the all-tournament team.
“That just means we are doing what we are supposed to do and working harder than anyone else,” Howard said the Bearette championship run.
West Clermont, Ohio (8-3), claimed third place in the tournament with a 64-42 victory over South Greene (13-3) Saturday.
Daniel Boone (11-4), which was the runner-up to the Bearettes in the Holiday Inn Express Thanksgiving Tournament, won the consolation bracket with a 46-37 tally over Lebanon (9-7).
After coming into the event unbeaten, Morristown-West (13-2) had to settle for fifth place with a 45-39 victory over Shelby Valley, Ky. (8-3), which also lost to Bradley in the quarterfinals.
PIGEON FORGE — After averaging just a little over 37 points a game in its previous three outings, Bradley was able to get its offense going against the boys from the Palmetto State.
The Bears doubled up in the opening period for a 12-6 advantage before stretching their lead to 26-17 at the intermission.
Rock Hill rallied to nip Bradley 37-36 in the second half as the teams combined for 44 points in the final eight minutes.
Posting a double-double, senior Taye Cobb had his best scoring night as a Bear, pumping in 23 points, on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 at the charity stripe, plus clearing the boards for a dozen rebounds.
Just missing a double-double as well, freshman Mason Rothwell helped out with nine points, including a 4-for-4 mark on freebies, plus he pulled down 10 caroms and handed out five assists.
Senior Lameric Tucker also drained all four of his foul shots, plus drilled a 3-pointer for seven points, dished off four helps, snagged a pair of ricochets and copped two steals.
Jared Elrod, another 12th-grader, garnered a half dozen points, three boards and a pair of thefts in the victory.
Tray Curry, a 6-foot-5 freshman, and 6-foot-3 junior Tyler Ferguson had five points and five rebounds apiece, while ninth-grader Tucker Greene also netted five markers.
Bradley shot 47 percent (18-of-38) in front of the arc and went 4-for-13 from distance.
29th annual Ladies’ Classic
Oak Ridge;11;17;12;8 — 48
Bradley Central 15;15;13;11 — 56
LADY WILDCATS (48) — Mykia Dowdell 16, Jada Guinn 11, Bates 9, Golden 8, Dunbar 2, Eckles 2, Copeland.
BEARETTES (56) — Rhyne Howard 21, Jamaryn Blair 10, Anna Walker 8, Kaleigh Hughes 6, Alexis Barnes 5, Cambree Mayo 2, Anna Roberts 2, Hannah Lombard.
3-POINTERS: OR 2 (Bates, Guinn): BC 6 (Howard 3, Blair 2, Hughes).
FREE?THROWS: OR 14-of-19: BC 10-of-14.
RECORDS: Oak Ridge 10-4: Bradley Central 16-0.
King of the Smokies Classic
Boys Consolation play
Rock Hills (S.C.);6;11;17;20 — 54
Bradley Central;12;14;12;24 — 62
BEARCATS (54) — Saiven Williams 15, Antonis Barber 14, Steele 9, Fletcher 6, Bracey 4, Logan 2, Edwards 2, Young 2, Weldly, Stratford, Brown, Rinchair.
BEARS (62) — Taye Cobb 23, Mason Rothwell 9, Tucker 7, Elrod 6, Greene 5, Curry 5, Ferguson 5, Clark 2, Boyd, Wesley.
3-POINTERS: RH 1 (Barber): BC 4 (Rothwell, Tucker, Greene, Curry).
FREE?THROWS: RH 15-of-21: BC 14-of-18.
RECORDS: Rock Hill 0-12: Bradley Central 6-8.
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