After the Lady Mustangs had been on the brink of upsetting the fourth-ranked Bearettes before falling 58-53, Walker Valley senior Caio Hysinger drilled a jumper from the wing with 1.5 seconds on the clock as the ’Stangs stunned the visitors 54-52 to knock the Bears out of a first-place tie atop the District 5-AAA standings.
“It’s Senior Night against our biggest rivals and we kept fighting and put ourselves in position to win,” proclaimed Walker Valley head coach Bob Williams. “We came close against Cleveland and Ooltewah recently. Those were heartbreaking losses, but our guys never lost faith. This is a great win going into the district, which is going to be a very tight tournament.”
The Mustangs (15-10, 5-7 District 5-AAA) pushed league leader Ooltewah (15-8, 9-2) to overtime before falling 67-66 on Jan. 22, plus went toe-to-toe with Cleveland (15-9, 9-3) last Friday in a 62-61 battle.
The probable No. 4 seed for the tournament, Walker Valley will travel to Baylor this evening to wrap up the regular season before opening postseason play next week at the Raider Dome.
Bradley (14-10, 9-3) still has to play Ooltewah Friday evening at Jim Smiddy Arena in a makeup of a postponed matchup from a couple of weeks ago.
The district coaches’ meeting was held this morning with the tournament seeds being set, contingent on Friday night’s Bear-Owl result. A Bradley win would produce a three-way tie atop the final 5-AAA standings.
On the girls’ side, the Bearettes (22-2, 11-0) wrapped up the district crown a couple of weeks ago, while Walker Valley (13-13, 6-6) tied Rhea County (18-8, 6-6) for fourth place in the standings.
After a trio of lead changes and the score being tied twice in the first four minutes of the nightcap, the Bradley boys took control with a 10-4 run to close out the opening period Tuesday.
Despite being down by a half dozen at the first break, the Mustangs kept pace and were able to trim the difference to 31-26 at the intermission.
Bradley was able to push its lead to as much as nine points twice in the third frame, but once again Walker Valley came galloping back, using a 9-4 run of its own to shave the deficit to 47-43 when Ozzy started singing.
After the teams traded fast-break baskets to open the final frame, Bradley was dealt a tough blow when leading scorer Bryce Copeland picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 5:32 remaining.
The Mustangs responded immediately with a three-point play from Austin Harwood three seconds later to cut the lead to a single point. Hysinger gave the home team the lead back 30 ticks later, when he stole an inbounds pass and drove downcourt for an uncontested layup.
Bradley tied the game at 50-all on a Taylor Bentley free throw and then after Copeland re-entered the game during a timeout with 3:25 remaining, he was able to dish an assist in the lane to senior Caleb Cain for a 52-50 Bear edge.
Hysinger knotted the game once again a minute later with another fast-break basket with 2:10 on the clock. After the teams traded turnovers, Walker Valley worked the clock down to 14.2 seconds and called a timeout.
Due to the Bear pressure on the inbounds pass, a Mustang miscue resulted in an over-and-back midcourt violation, giving the visitors the ball with 10 ticks remaining.
After another timeout, the Mustangs were whistled for a foul on the ensuing throw-in, but the resulting free-throw attempt hit off the back iron and bounced away. Bradley looked like it was going to get another chance as Cain snagged the ricochet, but as he was coming down, Mustang junior Logan Melton was able to tie the ball up and the possession arrow was pointing toward the hosts.
Walker Valley put the ball in the hands of Hysinger on the ensuing toss-in. The senior guard drove the length of the court, pulled up for a 12-foot jumper from the right wing and hit nothing but net, and “The Stable” exploded with 1.5 still on the clock.
After order was restored and back-to-back timeouts by the two teams, Bradley threw the ball in to midcourt, but Mustang senior Jackson Brownfield picked off the pass, preventing a “Hail Mary” shot at the buzzer.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” praised coach Williams. “They kept coming back. This is the first time our seniors have beaten Bradley in a varsity game, so this will be a game they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”
Hysinger’s heroics gave him a dozen points on the night, to go along with four assists, three steals and a trio of rebounds. Senior Tucker Godfrey helped out with nine points and three boards, while classmate Gabe Cartwright netted eight markers.
Brownfield and Harwood pumped in a half dozen points apiece, with the former adding four rebounds, a pair of thefts and a couple of caroms.
Despite being held to a half dozen points under his average, Copeland led all scorers with 14 points, plus he dished out five assists, cleared four rebounds and swiped a trio of steals.
Cain hit all six of his shots from the field for 12 points, plus was chairman of the boards with eight caroms. Bear senior Matt Whitmire helped out with 10 points, five boards and a trio of helps. Taylor Bentley netted nine points and snatched four rebounds, while Baylor Terrell had a trio of thefts.
“We got tight at the end of the third period,” declared Bear coach Kent Smith. “We were up 45-36 with a minute and a half to go in the third, and we only scored seven points the rest of the way.”
“We were getting the ball where we wanted to, but we couldn’t finish,” he added. “We also took too quick of shots while we had the lead, instead of running time off the clock. We also made just 11-of-17 free throws, and this time of year you can’t do that.”
LADY MUSTANGS 53
In what Bearette head coach Jason Reuter described as the “perfect storm,” both games of the varsity twin bill proved to be exciting as the Walker Valley girls had a five-point lead going into the final period before Bradley rallied.
“It’s Senior Night on their floor. We’ve been struggling lately and came out lacking intensity. We didn’t guard them very well in the first half, so everything was going their way,” coach Reuter explained.
“We were able to do a better job of trapping them late in the game, plus Brooke (Copeland) put us on her back in the fourth and led us to victory,” he added. “We’re not used to playing from behind, but we did what we needed to do to pull it out. We took lemons and made lemonade.”
After scoring just one point and sitting out the final 10 minutes of the opening half due to foul trouble, Copeland exploded for 21 points in the final 16 minutes, including 15 in the fourth quarter as Bradley netted the first dozen points of the final frame, turning a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
Despite the Bearettes pushing their advantage to as many as nine points with just over two minutes remaining, the Lady Mustangs rallied to cut the difference to just two points when freshman Kathleen Alomar drilled her third 3-pointer of the night with 12 ticks remaining.
Bradley was able to seal the win by hitting 3-of-4 free throws the rest of the way.
Seniors Brandi Whitted and Baylee Carroll helped out the victors with nine and eight points respectively, while Lindsey Davis and Whitney Donaldson netted a half dozen each. Rebecca Reuter was held to just four points, but the 6-foot-2 junior dominated the boards for 10 rebounds, plus she blocked three shots.
Lady Mustang junior Lyndsey Macon scored 14 of her 18 points in the opening half, plus she had five rebounds, five steals and five assists.
Alomar had five caroms to go with her nine points, while senior Wendi Watson helped out with eight points, three boards and a trio of helps. Jaclyn Griffith also netted eight points, while Peyton Davis added a half dozen.
Bradley Central 12 12 10 24 — 58
Walker Valley 18 11 10 14 — 53
BEARETTES (58) — Brooke Copeland 22, Brandi Whitted 9, Baylee Carroll 8, Lindsey Davis 6, Whitney Donaldson 6, Rebecca Reuter 4, Kayla Withrow 3.
LADY MUSTANGS (53) — Lyndsey Macon 18, Kathleen Alomar 9, Wendi Watson 8, Jaclyn Griffith 8, Peyton Davis 6, Victoria Jones 3, Rachel Percy 1, D.J. Mowery, .
3-point goals: Bradley 3 (Withrow, Davis, Copeland); Walker Valley 8 (Alomar 3, Watson 2, Griffith 2, Jones).
Free throws: Bradley 7-of-15; Walker Valley 3-of-6.
Records: Bradley Central 22-2, 11-0 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 13-13, 6-6 District 5-AAA.
Bradley Central 20 11 16 5 — 52
Walker Valley 14 12 19 9 — 54
BEARS (52) — Bryce Copeland 14, Caleb Cain 12, Matt Whitmire 10, Taylor Bentley 9, Logan Cox 3, Daniel Clark 2, Baylor Terrell 2.
MUSTANGS (54) — Caio Hysinger 12, Tucker Godfrey 9, Gabe Cartwright 8, Jackson Brownfield 6, Austin Harwood 6, Derice Anthony 4, Dustin Swafford 4, Lukas Korn 3, Logan Melton 2, Colton Morrow.
3-point goals: Bradley 3 (Copeland 2, Bentley); Walker Valley 2 (Hysinger, Godfrey).
Free throws: Bradley 11-of-17; Walker Valley 6-of-10.
Records: Bradley Central 14-10, 8-3 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 15-10, 5-7 District 5-AAA.