The Bearettes remained unbeaten in seven games so far this season as their 72-24 thrashing of Ooltewah was also their third district win as coach Jason Reuter’s squad has now outscored its opponents by 197 points (an average of 28 per game).
Coach Kent Smith’s Bears, however, continue to struggle despite holding late-game advantages as an eight-point halftime edge disappeared when the Owls made the first shot of the final frame on their way to a 57-51 win.
“The first half couldn’t have gone any better. We were disciplined. Took good shots. We talked at the half about how the first three minutes of the second half would determine the game. Then we came out starting rushing our shots and fell apart. We panicked,” commented Smith, whose team has dropped four of its first half dozen games this season by a total of 16 points.
“We’ve got some guys that need to realize this is varsity ball, not JV (junior varsity),” he added. “These games are won by mental toughness, not physical toughness. The mental part is the biggest challenge.”
The Bears will have a chance to right the ship this weekend with a pair of non-district games. Bradley will head south of the border Friday evening to Northwest Whitfield (Ga.) before making the trip back over the mountains Saturday evening to face region rival Cookeville.
The Bears (2-4, 1-2 District 5-AAA) started out like a house on fire, scoring the game’s first 12 points Tuesday evening as the hosts missed their first eight shots and turned the ball over three times in the initial five minutes.
Ooltewah (6-1, 4-0) finally got on the board with a pair of 3-pointers with 2:35 and 1:54 left in the frame, but Bradley still held a double-digit advantage at the first break.
The Bears continued to dominate in the second period, hitting 5-of-7 shots from the field, including a pair of treys, and all four free throws to lead by as much as 14 points twice before the hosts hit the final basket of the half to trim the lead back to a dozen at the intermission.
The roles immediately reversed when the teams retook the court as the Owls netted the first 10 points while Bradley missed a half dozen shots, plus a pair of freebies, and turned the ball over five times in the first 4:45 of the third quarter.
Senior Matt Whitmire was able to put back in an offensive rebound to finally break the schnide, plus dished off an assist teammate Daniel Clark a couple of minutes later.
Senior Bryce Copeland copped a steal and drove it all the way to the goal, and with 50 seconds left in the frame the Bear lead was back up to a half dozen, but an Owl 3-pointer before the buzzer and another 75 seconds into the final period evened the score at 40-all.
Copeland, who finished with a game-high 24 points, put Bradley back up twice, but Ooltewah answered each time and then held the visitors scoreless for a four-minute span while pumping in 10 points of its own to take the lead for good.
Trailing by eight with a minute and a half to go, the Bears were forced to foul, but couldn’t take advantage of three Owl misses. Bradley was able to cut the deficit to just four points twice in the final 15 seconds, but Ooltewah sealed the victory by hitting its final four foul shots.
“We turned the ball over 13 times in the second half,” lamented coach Smith. “We can’t do that and expect to win.”
After hitting 62 percent from the field, including 4-of-6 3s, in the first 16 minutes, Bradley went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and shot just 32 percent overall in the second half.
Copeland added a half dozen rebounds and a couple of steals to his 24-point tally, while Whitmire posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, plus he blocked a half dozen shots. Of the other four Bears who scored, none netted more than four points.
Andre Ware and Ben Snider both netted 13 points for the Owls.
Lady Owls 24
As they have done repeatedly, the Bradley girls dominated early, sizzling the nylon for 28 points, while copping nine steals and forcing five other turnovers while allowing the hosts just seven first-quarter points.
The Bearettes (7-0, 3-0) gave up just a single free throw in the second period, while dropping in another 19 points for a 47-8 halftime advantage, before coasting to victory with a 25-16 scoring advantage in the final two frames.
Junior Brooke Copeland led the Bradley attack with 21 points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, while classmate Whitney Donaldson helped out with 11 points, five assists and four steals.
Senior Brandi Whitted had a strong all-around showing with eight points, five rebounds, four helps and a trio of thefts for the victors.
Junior Rebecca Reuter netted a half dozen points, pulled down five caroms and blocked a pair of Lady Owl shots, while senior Kayla Withrow garnered six points as well, plus dished out three “dimes.” Senior Baylee Carroll had six points and three assists in the win.
Leondra Barrett led Ooltewah (2-8, 0-4) with nine points.
In the girls’ junior varsity contest, Bradley posted a 61-40 victory behind Taelor Hill and Katie Brown’s 14 and 13 points respectively. Baylee Brown added nine points as the JV Bearettes improved to 5-1 on the season.
Bradley Central 28 19 13 12 — 72
Ooltewah 7 1 8 8 — 24
BEARETTES (72) — Brooke Copeland 21, Whitney Donaldson 11, Whitted 8, Reuter 6, Withrow 6, Carroll 6, Stallings 5, Davis 4, Thompson 3, Hill 2, Delane, Pippenger.
LADY OWLS (24) — Leondra Barrett 9, Cross 5, Featherstone 5, Taylor 3, Smith 2, Baker, Kennedy, Hall, A. Jones, Cooper, Cain, Dudas, Hall, R. Jones, Younly.
3-POINTERS: Bradley 6 (Withrow 2, Donaldson, Thompson, Carroll, Stallings); Ooltewah 1 (Taylor).
FREE THROWS: Bradley 11-of-16; Ooltewah 8-of-12.
RECORDS: Bradley 7-0, 3-0 District 5-AAA; Ooltewah 2-8, 0-4 District 5-AAA.
Bradley Central 18 16 6 11 — 51
Ooltewah 8 14 15 20 — 57
BEARS (51) — Bryce Copeland 24, Matt Whitmire 16, Clark 4, Cox 3, Bentley 2, Cain 2, , Morgan, Terrell.
OWLS (57) — Andre Ware 13, Ben Snider 13, Robinson 8, Jackson 6, Fribz 6, Bass 6, Mason 5, Presley, Boyd.
3-point goals: Bradley Central 4 (Copeland 3, Cox); Ooltewah 6 (Bass 2, Mason, Snider, Robinson, Jackson).
Free throws: Bradley Central 7-of-10; Ooltewah 9-of-14.
Records: Bradley Central 2-4, 1-2; Ooltewah 6-1, 4-0 District 5-AAA.