“If we played half as well as we did at Cookeville (a 55-48 victory on Dec. 20 over the Cavaliers, who had defeated the Bears by 24 points in the season opener), then this would be a different story,” assessed Coach Clark after a 64-54 defeat at the hands of 2013 TSSAA State Tournament participant Fulton.
“We’re 4-0 in the district (5-AAA) and we split with Cookeville, which is in our region, but we’re 1-6 against teams outside our region,” related the Bear coach. “Our guys will get up for district game, but we as coaches are going to have to do a better job of getting them up for all our games.”
The defeat in the opening round of the Renasant Bank Christmas Tournament in Maryville dropped Bradley to the consolation side of the 16-team bracket, where they faced Sequoyah this morning and will play at either 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Saturday, depending on today’s result. Sequoyah came out on the short end of a 79-44 tally against Knox Webb Thursday.
The Bears (6-7) fell in a deep hole early Thursday as the high-flying Falcons (8-2) put the first dozen points on the scoreboard and led 17-3 at one point before a trio of Bradley free throws in the final 35 seconds cut the advantage to 18-6 at the first horn. All six of the Bear points had come from the foul line.
After missing their first 13 shots from the field, the Black-and-Gold finally found the bottom of the net 43 ticks into the second period when senior Taylor Bentley hit a driving jumper.
Despite winning the quarter 14-12, Bradley still found itself down 30-20 at the intermission. The Bears tacked on another 14 points, including eight straight by sophomore Bradley McCurdy, in the third quarter, but the boys from Knoxville stretched their lead to 15 by netting 19 markers of their own.
The final eight minutes saw the Black-and-Gold offense come alive to rally, using an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits when McCurdy drove to the hoop with 2:07 left on the clock.
A free throw, plus an offensive rebound putback by freshman Cole Copeland, closed the gap to seven points with 25.5 ticks remaining, but that was as close as the Bears would come.
McCurdy and Bentley were the only two Bears to score in double figures with 16 and 13 points respectively. McCurdy hit 6-of-7 from the free-throw line, while Bentley was 4-for-6.
Bradley shot just 34 percent from the field, including hitting just 1-of-12 3-point attempts, while Fulton made good on 23-of-39 shots (59 percent) from inside the arc and 1-of-5 from distance.
Each team was whistled for half of the 48 fouls in the contest, with the Bears sinking 23-of-33 free throws, while the Falcons struggled from the stripe, making only 13-of-29.
“Our free-throw shooting is really what kept us in the game,” declared Coach Clark. “Both teams had 18 turnovers and they outrebounded us by five (24-19), but we were able get 23 points from the free-throw line.”
“They (Fulton) outplayed us, but by missing their foul shots, it gave us a chance to hang around. But we were too inconsistent with our own offense to be able to do anything about it,” he added. “We had a few lineup change, got into some foul trouble early and we didn’t adjust well.”
“We’re still young in some key spots and we’re going through some growing pains,” the Bear mentor summarized. “This tournament is to help us get ready for the second half of the season, but we are going to have grow up and step it up offensively and defensively.”
“We’ve been either hot or cold. We’ve got to become more consistent.”
Fulton 18 12 19 15 — 64
Bradley Central 6 14 14 20 — 54
FALCONS (64) — Josh Nance 13, Kentel Williams 12, Kelvin Jackson 10, Joe Kimber 10, E. Williams 8, Hamilton 4, Da. Filer 4, Do. Filer 2, Cook 1.
BEARS (54) — Bradley McCurdy 16, Taylor Bentley 13, Cox 7, Copeland 3, Clark 3, Crisp 3, Maroon 3, McGowan 3, Gregory 3, Morgan.
3-POINTERS: Fulton 1 (Nance); Bradley 1 (Bentley).
FREE THROWS: Fulton 13-of-29; Bradley 23-of-32.
RECORDS: Fulton 8-2; Bradley 6-7.