Wrapping up their fourth straight perfect District 5-AAA regular season mark, Bradley Central's girls now head into postseason play looking for their ninth district crown in a row.The Bearettes, …
Wrapping up their fourth straight perfect District 5-AAA regular season mark, Bradley Central's girls now head into postseason play looking for their ninth district crown in a row.
The Bearettes, ranked fourth in the final Associated Press poll of the season, flexed their muscle with a 55-36 win over archrival Cleveland High, the No. 2 seed in this week's league tournament, Monday evening at Jim Smiddy Arena.
"Neither team shot well. Our inside game is better than theirs, so we were able to utilize that," commented Bearette head coach Jason Reuter.
"We beat them by 20 at their place and were up 21 before they put in a basket at the buzzer to cut it to 19 tonight, so I guess you can say we're 20 points better than them."
"It wasn't a very pretty basketball game from either team," assessed Lady Raider coach Tony Williams, the back-to-back District Coach of the Year, who is yet to beat Bradley in eight tries.
"The hoop seemed to have a lid on it on both ends, as neither of us could make wide-open shots."
As the top two seeds in the 5-AAA tourney, both teams advance to Saturday's semifinal round and have also secured a spot in the Region 3 Tournament the following weekend.
Bradley (25-3, 12-0 District 5-AAA) will await the winner of fourth-seeded McMinn County (20-9, 7-5) and No. 5 Ooltewah (11-15, 3-9) in Saturday's 3 p.m. opener at Soddy-Daisy High School.
"We only beat McMinn County by nine points the last time we played them (Jan. 18)," related Coach Reuter. "They've had a 20-win season, so we can't overlook them. We've got to keep working, fighting and playing fundamental basketball."
Cleveland (15-13, 9-3) will play at 6 that evening against either third-seeded East Hamilton (18-11, 8-4), No. 6 Walker Valley (9-17, 3-9) or seventh-seed Soddy-Daisy (3-22, 0-12).
"We will keep working and would love nothing more than to get one more crack at them (Bradley) for a district championship," remarked Coach Williams. "We gotta get through the winner of some opening-round district games first before that becomes much of a thought. For now it's simply just getting better."
The Lady Mustangs and host Lady Trojans will open the tournament Wednesday evening at 6, with the victor advancing to face the Lady Hurricanes on Thursday.
The district championship and third place games will be played on Monday.
Bradley scored in the first three seconds of Monday evening's game, getting a fast-break basket by senior Hannah Lombard off the opening tip.
Fellow senior Kaleigh Hughes drilled a 3-pointer a moment later and it appeared the route was on as the hosts led 18-8 at the end of the first period.
Buckets proved hard to come by in the second frame as the teams combined to make just 3-of-24 shots from the field, leading to a 24-15 halftime difference.
Cleveland was able to close the gap to just five points by netting six of the first eight points in the third period, but the Bearettes then went on a 14-2 run in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the frame to push the difference back to 17 points (40-23).
A 10-3 spurt to open the final frame pull the Lady Raiders to within 10 points with four minutes left, but once again the hosts shifted into high gear for a 12-1 streak for their largest lead of the night at 21 points.
Cleveland junior Brenna Droke was able to put in a buzzer beater to give the game its final tally.
"Bradley-Cleveland games are always tough. Both teams played really hard," praised Reuter. "We had a great crowd tonight (near the 2,500-seat capacity) and a great atmosphere for a big game like this."
Bradley's trio of All-District performers — junior Anna Walker, sophomore Jamaryn Blair and Hughes — hit half of their 26 shots for a combined for 34 points.
Meanwhile, the Bearette defense stifled the four Lady Raider All-District honorees — sophomores Joy Douglass and Kara Williams, junior Bailey Anderson and senior Kaitlyn Goodman — to just 19 points on 18 percent shooting (6-for-33).
Walker led the victory with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a pair of blocked shots and a steal.
"You gotta give a lot of credit to Anna Walker, who played like a D-1 player tonight," commented Coach Williams of the Samford commit. "She is a very skilled big and hurt us quite a bit.
Blair, who already has an offer from Jacksonville State (Ala.), helped out the victory with 11 points, five caroms, three thefts and a "dime."
Junior Alexis Barnes came off the bench for nine points, while Hughes and junior Cambree Mayo netted five points apiece, while combining for eight ricochets and four assists.
As a team Bradley hit 17-of-31 shots (55 percent) from inside the arc, but made just 4-of-18 (22 percent) from beyond it.
Cleveland made just 8-of-35 shots (23 percent) from close range and went 3-for-18 (17 percent) from distance.
Senior Madison Dasher and Douglass led the Lady Raider scoring with eight points apiece, with the latter clearing the glass for a game-high 13 rebounds.
Anderson netted a half dozen markers and snagged four boards, while Droke grabbed five ricochets to go with four points.
"I'm proud of our team's toughness and grit," declared Coach Williams. "We had it cut to five in the third (quarter). To be in that position, in that environment, says a lot about our growth as a team."
Cleveland won the battle of the boards 34-27 and got 13 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds.
"We gave up way too many offensive rebounds and our free-throw shooting wasn't good (9-for-21)," Coach Reuter proclaimed. "You do that against a Stone Memorial in a region game and your season can be over."
Bradley did get 32 points from the paint to just 16 for the visitors, while the Bearette bench also dominated 16-6 in the scoring column.
at Jim Smiddy Arena
Cleveland 87 813 — 36
Bradley Central1861615 — 55
LADY RAIDERS (36) - Madison Dasher 8, Joy Douglass 8, Bailey Anderson 6, Mariyah Person 5, Brenna Droke 4, Kara Williams 3, Kaitlyn Goodman 2, Raven Alvarado, Alexia Johnson, Megan Rouse, Emily Rominger.
BEARETTES (55) – Anna Walker 18, Jamaryn Blair 11, Alexis Barnes 9, Kaleigh Hughes 5, Cambree Mayo 5, Hannah Lombard 3, Anna Roberts 2, Amelia Reuter 1, Jamia Williams 1, Kaitlyn Hullender, Ashlen Crittenden, Ashton Estrada, Syler Falcon.
3-Pointers: CHS 3 (Dasher 2, Williams); BC 4 (Walker 2, Hughes, Mayo).
Free throws: CHS 11-of-16; BC 9-of-21.
RECORDS: Cleveland 15-13, 9-3 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 25-3, 12-0 District 5-AAA.
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