The Bradley Central Bears fought their way back from an 11-point third quarter deficit, roaring back in the fourth quarter to remain perfect in district basketball while handing the Ooltewah Owls their first District 5-AAA loss Friday night in Jim Smiddy Arena by a score of 68-62.
The Bearettes simply overpowered and overmatched the Lady Owls in the opener with a 74-19 win.
The Bears (5-4, 4-0 District 5-AAA) continually hammered Ooltewah in the paint in their impressive comeback victory, scoring 65 of 68 points inside the 3-point line. Junior wing Daniel Clark recorded the lone Bradley trey, tying the game with just over six minutes left to play and sparking the comeback.
Three Bears scored in double figures in the win. Senior Taylor Bentley crashed the lane for 15 points followed by sophomore Bradley McCurdy with 13. Fellow sophomore Cole Copeland also helped inside with 10 points.
On the night, Bradley hit 57 percent of tries from inside the line going 24 of 42. From behind the arc, the Bears missed on 5 of 6 attempts. For the game, 54 percent of shots to the hoop found the mark. The Bradley boys, although playing inspired basketball particularly in the second half, excelled where many games are lost and won. The Bears dropped in 17 of 24 shots from the free-throw line, while the Owls were less than stellar at nine of 23 attempts.
Bradley Coach Chuck Clark credited the Bears’ tough early schedule for the confidence and mental discipline showed by starters Bentley, Logan Cox, Dee Crisp, Clark and McCurdy and the bench in the come-from-behind win.
“As much as I hated playing Hamilton Heights, when you play teams that are that big and that good it’s got to make you better,” said Clark as Jim Smiddy Arena emptied. “I look back at that loss and see it’s probably helped us get where we are now, to be stronger mentally. The weight rooms give us the physical part of it, but the mental part of competing with team like that and not going away really makes a difference. We got down 11 tonight; there’s no quit in these guys.”
The Bears, who led by two after the first quarter fought back to take a 31-29 lead at halftime but fell behind midway in the third after three straight turnovers led to a 43-37 Ooltewah lead. Copeland and Crisp teamed up to break the streak with an inbounds pass from Copeland to Crisp, who snagged the toss while stretching for a quick two-pointer that settled the Bears back down. The Owls went on to outscore the Bears 8-3 the rest of the way, setting the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter revival from Bradley Central.
“I’m not going to let them [get down]. If I see somebody not giving me 100 percent on the court, I’ve got a bunch of guys that will,” said Clark. “They know that, and they are going to give everything they’ve got until they just can’t go anymore, and then we give them a rest. They are a fun bunch of guys to be with, and I’m proud for them tonight.”
Trailing 51-42 to open the fourth quarter, Ty Morgan and Bently pulled the Bears closer with back-to-back 3-point plays to make it 51-48. Clarke lifted in a 2-pointer and followed seconds later with a 3 from the wing to tie the game at 53-53. Bently, Clark, McCurdy and Copeland spread the leather around to pull ahead 61-55 with 4:27 left in the game. After swapping points, McCurdy and Copeland swished in three of four free throws to give the Bears a 9-point lead. Bentley completed the comeback and gave the Bears their biggest lead of the night, 68-57, with 1:16 left to play. The Owls closed out scoring five more points as time expired to make it a 68-62 final.
Clark said afterward the Bears have bought into his perception of how good his group can be, and the win over the Owls is hopefully just the beginning of a productive winter for Bradley Central basketball.
“When we lost three in a row, after practice one day I gave them a vision of what my vision is, the different things we can do as a team,” he said. “We can use our size, what little bit we do have, in the different areas in the game of basketball. We can also go smaller and quicker like we did tonight late in the game. We’ve got a pressing group that comes in, I call them the Ambush Squad. We didn’t use them tonight; I really didn’t want to get into anymore of a race horse game than it was. We’ve got so many different variables that I can use. We’ve got 10 quality players, and I’m not afraid to put them in. I think they are catching my vision and my dream for them. Who knows where it will go, but I think it will keep going up.”
Rebounds were knotted at 28 apiece. The Bears committed 17 turnovers to Ooltewah’s 13.
LADY OWLS 19
While the Bearettes are still working to better their percentage from behind the 3-point arc, 3-pointers were not needed in their 55-point win over the Lady Owls.
The Bradley Central girls hit 6 of 15 from outside with Lyndsey Davis, Mady Stallings, Chelsie Summers, Julia Gaither, Katie Brown and Halle Hughes all finding the long-range mark. But it was 6-foot-2 senior center Brooke Copeland leading the way for the Bearettes with her usual dominating performance inside the lane. Copeland piled in a game-high 25 points on the night with 21 coming in the first half. The University of Florida volleyball signee went down early in the third quarter leaving the game after a collision with a Lady Owl. Copeland returned minutes later to toss in her final four points and watched as teammates took care of business the rest of the way. Fellow senior Rebecca Reuter reached double figures with 13 points.
“We didn’t have near the mistakes tonight that we’ve had,” said Bearettes coach Jason Reuter as he looked over game statistics after the win. “It was a well balanced game. The score got out of hand, but I was proud our kids didn’t play the scoreboard, they kept playing, even the young kids. I chapped them once or twice about giving up rebounds, but you have to be a realist. When Rebecca and Brooke are not out there, it exposes maybe the lack of size at time. We have to be realistic, they [the younger group] shot so many shots and shot so poorly there were a lot of long rebounds that came off. Other than that, it was a complete game.”
Even so, the Bearettes out-jumped the Lady Owls for 39 rebounds to 17 for Ooltewah and for the game piled in 71 percent of shots from 2-point distance only missing on eight of 28 attempts. The Lady Owls hit only seven of 36 2-pointers and one of 13 from 3-point distance.
It was the Lady Owls who took the early lead, however, hitting the only Ooltewah 3 of the night to take a 3-0 lead. Davis quickly followed with the first Bearettes trey of the night, and the rout was on. Bradley Central jumped to a 10-3 lead and went on to take a 21-15 lead at halftime. The Bearettes held Ooltewah to three points in the second quarter and two in the third before giving up eight in the fourth.
“I thought everybody came in and contributed,” said Reuter. “They zoned us the entire night. We are going to see a lot of that. We’ve got to take positives. I can tell as a coach my team is getting more comfortable in being zoned. Sometimes you have to be comfortable in being uncomfortable. Most teams in this district or region are not going to be able to match up with our big girls, and we are going to see a lot of zone. Really, when teams are zoning us they are just doing us a favor for later on in the year.
“I’m very proud of our girls, very proud of them. They are getting better.”
BEARETTES 74, LADY OWLS 19
Ooltewah 6 3 2 8 — 19
Bradley Central 21 18 20 15 — 74
Ooltewah (19) — Baker 5, Corley 3, C. Cox 2, K. Cox 2, Spange 2, Hall2, Cline 2, Henderson 1.
Bradley Central (74) — Brooke Copeland 25, Rebeca Reuter 13, E. K. Brown 8, Gaither 7, Hughes 7, K. Brown 5, Davis 3, Stallings 3, Summers 3, Delane, McCree.
3-point goals: Ooltewah 1 (Baker); Bradley Central 6 (Davis, Stallings, Summers, Gaither, Brown, Hughes).
Records: Ooltewah 2-6, 1-3 5-AAA; Bradley Central 8-2, 3-1.
BEARS 68, OWLS 62
Ooltewah 12 17 22 11 — 62
Bradley Central 15 16 11 26 — 68
Ooltewah (62) — Ben Snider 16, Jaymical Johnson 13, Ron King 11, Boyd 8, Montgopmery 6, Turner 1, Ross.
Bradley Central (68) — Taylor Bentley 15, Bradley McCurdy 13, Cole Copeland 10, Clark 9, Gregory 7, Morgan 6, Crisp 4, Cox 2, Maroon 1, McGowan.
3-point goals: Ooltewah 3 (Johnson, King, Montgomery); Bradley Central 1 (Clark).
Records: Ooltewah5-3, 2-1 5-AAA; Bradley Central 5-4, 4-0.