Naples, Fla. — The Bradley Central Bearettes continued their challenging schedule with a 46-43 win over the Tampa Bay Tech Titans, Tuesday.
The titans are ranked No. 6 by USA Today in their most recent girls Super 25 poll.
The defending Florida 8A state champs of 2019 are the fourth defending state champions the Bearettes have faced this season. The Bradley girls have wins over two of them (St. Rose of New Jersey and Tampa Bay Tech) and lost to two others (Westlake, Georgia 7A champs and Ensworth, Tennessee DII-AAA champs).
The Bearettes will ring in the New Year taking a few days off before returning to District 5-AAA play against Walker Valley on Jan. 7.
The Bearettes were ready to turn the page after being soundly defeated by Westlake, ranked in the USA Today poll at No. 10.
“I challenged my girls and told them that I would find out what they were made of against Tampa Bay. We didn’t have them prepared right and that’s on me,” commented Bearettes coach Jason Reuter after the game.
“I thought we played together and won these games with our defense, which we used to win a state title last year.”
The Bearettes forced 21 turnovers will committing only seven.
“Our goal each game is to hold a team to 45 or fewer points, force 15 turnovers and hold our turnover count to less than eight, and we accomplished all of those in this game,” stated a very happy Reuter.
The Titans held the lead at 16-9 after the first quarter despite seven points from junior Anna Muhonen, as the Bearettes continued to struggle offensively making just 3 of 12 field goal attempts including 0 of 4 from distance.
Defensively, however, the Bearettes were doing their thing, forcing seven turnovers and picking up four steals in the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to the Bearettes as junior Jamaryn Blair picked up her third steal and scored on a fast break to cut into the lead. Her fourth steal of the game led to an offensive rebound and a score plus-one for UTC signee Anna Walker, and the lead was down to one for the Titans.
Another bucket by Walker with 4:29 on the clock gave the Bearettes their first lead at 20-19. Two Muhonen free throws knotted the score at 22-22 as the teams headed to the halftime break.
Walker picked up nine more points in the third period and her fast break layup with 13 seconds left gave the Bearettes a 35-34 lead after three quarters. The lead changed hands six times in the third quarter as the teams battled back-and-forth.
The Titans' Janiah Barker scored on a fast break field goal and then nailed a 3-point shot to regain the lead at 39-35. The 6-2 Barker is ranked the No. 1 sophomore forward in the nation by ESPN.
But, Walker responded with a trey of her own and added a two-pointer to put the Bearettes back on top at 40-39.
Barker once again put the Titans back on top, but a score by Cambree Mayo followed by fast break buckets by Jamia Williams and Walker led to the Bearette victory.
“We played three straight games against defending state champs from other states and took two out of three. People in Naples didn’t’ know where Cleveland was before we came, but they do now,” concluded Reuter. “I’m very proud of the way we bounced back as a team.”
Walker led all scorers with 27 points in the game, pushing her career totals as a Bearette over the 1,000-point mark at 1019. Muhonen added nine points to go with five rebounds, two blocks and two assists.
Defensively the Bearettes were led by Blair and Walker with four steals each. The Bearettes were out rebounded 29-21.
“We really need to shoot better,” reiterated Reuter.
The Bearettes shot 18 of 38 (37.5%) from the floor, and just two of nine (22.0%) from behind the arc, while sinking eight of 15 free throws (53.3%).