“That first period was ugly basketball by both teams (a combined 4-for-27 shooting),” declared veteran head coach Kent Smith after his Bears repaid the Raiders for a two-point loss in December with a 59-44 victory.
“I told them after that they played the first period their way, now we’re going to play my way,” he added. “We did a good job of keeping our composure and staying disciplined. Once we settled down we were effective with our offense.”
Having claimed five straight victories since the changing of the calendar, Bradley has improved to 10-8 on the season and more importantly is 5-2 in district play, tying it for second place with Cleveland (11-7, 5-2). Ooltewah leads the league at 13-4 and a perfect 7-0 in 5-AA play.
The Bears will make the long journey to Soddy-Daisy Friday evening for another district battle. Cleveland will step out of league play, heading to East Hamilton for a special event Friday, where it will take on Central Park, Ala., at 6:30 p.m.
Bradley junior Logan Cox drilled the game’s first basket with a 3-pointer 70 seconds into the contest and then added another trey for the Bears’ second basket almost nine minutes later.
Cleveland didn’t fair much better in the opening frame, as it hit just 3-of-15 shots with a 3-pointer from Anfernee Scott and shots from the paint by Jahmal Johnson and Kendrick Thompson gave the hosts a 7-3 lead at the first break.
The Raiders maintained their advantage through most of the second period before Bradley took the lead for good when senior Bryce Copeland put back in an offensive rebound with 1:40 left in the half.
After leading 20-19 at the intermission, the Bears scored the first five points when play resumed, including an old fashioned three-point play by junior Taylor Bentley.
Cleveland was able to close the gap to a single point twice during the frame, but the visitors were up 39-35 when the third period buzzer sounded.
Bradley kept up the pressure, posting its highest point of the night with a 20-point frame, while the defense held the hosts to just a CJ Bryant 3-pointer in the final six minutes of the contest.
“We played good defense all night, but we really executed on both ends of the court there in the fourth,” praise coach Smith.
“Bryce (Copeland, who has averaged 20 points a game this season), didn’t have his best shooting night, but he did a lot of other things to help us and guys like Logan (Cox), (Baylor) Terrell, (Daniel) Clark and others really stepped up,” the coach commented.
Copeland finished with a dozen points, nine rebounds, three assists, a couple of steals and blocked a shot.
Cox topped the Bears with 15 points, including four 3-pointers, while senior Matt Whitmire netted 11 points.
Bryant dropped in four 3-pointers and led all scorers with 22 points, while Thompson netted seven and pulled down five rebounds for the Raiders.
Johnson cleaned the glass for eight caroms and put in a half dozen points, including a slam dunk.
After hitting just one of their first dozen shots, the Bears drained 55 percent (21-of-38) of their attempts the rest way.
Cleveland connected on just 31 percent of its field goals, going 6-for-24 from beyond the arc and 10-of-27 in front of it.
Both teams had a dozen free-throw attempts with Bradley making 10 and the Raiders six.
In the boys’ junior varsity game, Cleveland made a fourth-quarter rally for a 56-53 come-from-behind victory.
After leading by a half dozen at the half, Bradley saw its lead slip to just two points heading into the final frame and by just a single point with 2 1/2 minutes to go.
The JV Raiders took advantage of a pair of unforced turnovers by the visitors for a 7-0 run to take the lead.
The Bears made one last rally, cutting a six-point deficit to just two when Tucker Maroon nailed a 3-pointer with six ticks on the clock, but a desperation three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer hit the front of the rim and bounced away.
Austin Dykes paced Cleveland with 18 points, including five 3-pointers, while Mason Brown and Cantrell Ware helped out with 13 and 12 points respectively.
Maroon topped the Bears with 13 points, including a trio of treys, while Bradley McCurdy also hit from downtown three times for nine points. Dee Crisp netted eight points.
Bradley Central 3 17 19 20 — 59
Cleveland 7 12 16 9 — 44
BEARS (59) — Logan Cox 15, Bryce Copeland 12, Matt Whitmire 11, Taylor Bentley 8, Daniel Clark 6, Caleb Cain 4, Baylor Terrell 3.
BLUE RAIDERS (44) — CJ Bryant 22, Kendrick Thompson 7, Jahmal Johnson 6, Anfernee Scott 5, DJ Jones 2, Cantrell Ware 2, Isaiah Beaty, Mason Brown, Dustin Little.
3-point goals: Bradley 5 (Cox 3, Terrell, Bentley); Cleveland 6 (Bryant 4, Thompson, Scott).
Free throws: Bradley 10-of-12; Cleveland 6-of-12.
Records: Bradley Central 9-7, 1-4 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 11-7, 5-2 District 5-AAA.