After an extremely hot shooting opening half by both teams, Bradley Central was able to boost the defensive pressure in the second half, cooling off Walker Valley and allowing the visitors to pull away for a key District 5-AAA victory in "The Stable," Tuesday evening.
"We (Bradley) shot 61% in the first half and they (WV) shot 51%. While I'm glad we were hitting our shots, we weren't doing much to keep them from making theirs," related veteran head coach Chuck Clark after his Bears posted a 67-58 win.
"Letting them shoot like that is not acceptable. Believe me, they (the Bears) heard about it at halftime. In the second half we were coming off their screens with them and making it more difficult for them to get off their shots (holding the Mustangs to just 31.5% shooting in the final two frames).
"When you play a crosstown rival you pretty much know what each other is going to do, so it's a matter of execution. I felt like we executed a little better than they did tonight," he assessed.
Before the primetime battle had the capacity-plus crowd pumped, the top-ranked Bearettes had little trouble getting past the Lady Mustangs 61-35.
Bradley will return to "The Jim" Friday evening for another big district twinbill as its oldest rival, McMinn County, comes calling.
Walker Valley hits the road for a pair of games, heading to Northwest Whitfield (Ga.) Thursday before going over the mountains to White County for a big Region 3 matchup Friday.
Trailing just once for less than 30 seconds, Bradley (8-4, 2-1 District 5-AAA) broke open a close game midway through the opening period with an 8-3 spurt for a seven-point edge before the hosts trimmed the difference to just four (21-17) by the close of the quarter.
Walker Valley (12-5, 2-2) was able to close the gap even more with a 21-18 scoring edge in the second frame to trail by just one (39-38) at the intermission.
While the Bears ripped the cords on 13-of-21 shots, including five 3-pointers, in the opening 16 minutes, the Mustangs had countered by connecting on 14-of-27, including four from "downtown."
Bradley came out of the locker rooms just as hot as they were in the opening half, draining 7-of-8 shots from in front of the arc, including four fast-break baskets, while turning up the defense, holding the hosts to just 2-of-7 shots from the field during the third period.
After three straight baskets by junior Mason Rothwell pushed the advantage to its highest mark at 11 with 1:50 to go in the third period, Bradley withstood a late charge by the Herd, who closed the gap to a half-dozen three times in the final frame.
The Bears were able to seal the victory by hitting 6-of-8 free throws, plus getting a pair of Tray Curry offensive rebound putbacks in the game's final 2 1/2 minutes.
Sophomore Quante Berry led the Bear attack with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Curry collected 17 markers, including a monster slam, plus he cleared the glass for four caroms.
Rothwell helped out with 14 points and five boards, while seniors Ashton Boyd and Saylor Clark netted a half-dozen markers each.
"I'm very pleased with the win. We didn't play very good defense in the first half, but then we did much better in the second half. That made the difference," Coach Clark proclaimed.
"We're playing with a few little nagging injuries, but you just have to go out and play. Our bench, especially Tucker Greene, Isaac Smith and Dakota Davis, played really well tonight. It was a total team win. I'm proud of them."
Bradley shot 57% from the field, hitting 19-of-31 in front of the arc, plus went 5-for-11 beyond it. Walker Valley finished at 46.5% on the night, connecting on 13-of-21 from the two-point area, plus 7-of-23 from distance.
Senior Jake Smith topped the Mustang effort with 17 points and five ricochets, while Campbell added 14 points and a trio of helps. Both drained a pair of long-range bombs on the night.
Senior Braden Davis posted nine points and dealt four "dimes," while classmate Shimier Davis came off the bench to drop in five points, snatch five caroms and block a trio of shots.
LADY MUSTANGS 35
After scoring the game's first seven points, the Bradley girls breezed to their 72nd straight district victory, including 15 in a row over Walker Valley.
It was the 2,750th game since 1922 for the Bearette program and its state-record 2,245th win.
Although the Bearettes (11-3, 3-0) built a quick double-digit lead (13-3), a 3-pointer by Lee University softball signee Laney Harris in the final 10 ticks closed the gap to just 17-10 at at the first horn.
Bradley salted the game away with a 15-2 scoring advantage in the second period before stretching the difference to 31 points (51-20) heading into the final frame.
Walker Valley (7-10, 2-2) was able to "win" the fourth quarter 15-10, thanks to hitting 11-of-12 free throws in the final eight minutes.
The reigning state champion Bearettes dominated down under, pumping in 36 points in the paint, plus scoring 30 off of 24 Lady Mustang turnovers.
UT-Chattanooga signee Anna Walker paced the victory with 19 points, four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
Junior Anna Muhonen helped out with a dozen markers, five caroms and a "swat."
After being shutout in the opening half, junior Jamaryn Blair bounced back with 11 points after the break to go with her four ricochets, three assists and a trio of thefts.
Senior Cambree Mayo garnered 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, four boards, four steals and a pair of helps.
Harris led the hosts with nine points , with fellow senior Tasia Roberts adding a half dozen markers, while clearing four caroms.
Junior Emma Bentley went 4-for-4 at the free throw line and claimed a half-dozen ricochets, while Marissa Patel came off the bench for four points and five rebounds.
Madison Jaynes netted five points including a NBA-range 3-pointer from the top of the key that banked in.
at "The Stable"
Tuesday, Jan. 7
Bradley Central17151910 — 61
Walker Valley10 2 815 — 35
BEARETTES (61) — Anna Walker 19, Anna Muhonen 12, Jamaryn Blair 11, Cambree Mayo 10, Barnes 4, Williams 2, Carman 2, Ledford 1, Reuter, Crittenden, Carpenter, Webber, Estrada, Jones.
LADY MUSTANGS (35) — Laney Harris 9, Tasia Roberts 6, Madison Jaynes 5, Bentley 4, Patel 4, Caldwell 3, Benson 2, Davis 2, Lonas, B. Harris, Weathersby, Gale.
3-point goals: BC 3 (Mayo 2, Walker); WV 3 (L. Harris 2, Jaynes).
Free throws: BC 16-of-19; WV 12-of-15.
Records: No. 1 Bradley Central 11-3, 3-0 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 7-10, 2-2 District 5-AAA.
Bradley Central21181414 — 67
Walker Valley1721 713 — 58
BEARS (67) — Quante Berry 18, Tray Curry 17, Mason Rothwell 14, Ashton Boyd 6, Saylor Clark 6, Greene 3, Smith 2, Davis 1.
MUSTANGS (58) — Jake Smith 17, Blake Campbell 14, Braden Davis 9, Sam Belau 5, Shimier Davis 5, Moore 3, Duprey 3, Sausville 2.
3-point goals: BC 5 (Boyd 2, Clark, Greene, Rothwell); WV 7 (Campbell 2, Smith 2, Duprey, Belau, Moore).
Free throws: BC 14-of-22; WV 11-of-14.
Records: Bradley Central 8-4, 2-1 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 12-5, 2-2 District 5-AAA.