Opening his fourth season at the Bearette helm, coach Jason Reuter notched his 89th victory with an easy 54-25 cakewalk over the visiting Cookeville squad.
“I’m very blessed to a small part of such a great program,” declared the 6-foot-8 Reuter. “The Lord has been good to me and we’ve had some very talented players in my time here and it’s a privilege to work with them.”
Meanwhile, going without four key players who are just a few days removed from their final football game, new head coach Chuck Clark’s debut saw a “good effort” from his Bears but they came out on the short end of a 61-37 score in a battle that was close until the final frame.
“I made the decision to give our football players a few days off before putting them right in without having time to get ready,” explained the 17-year Bradley assistant coach. “Our guys played extremely hard tonight, but we broke down in the fourth quarter and panicked a bit and let things get away from us.”
Both Bradley squads will open regular season action next Tuesday when Middle Tennessee perennial powerhouse Riverdale comes calling.
The two-time defending state AAA champion Lady Warriors will bring a 59-game winning streak into Smiddy Arena, including a 72-39 win over defending state AA runner-up Macon County Tuesday to open their campaign.
Playing without one of their two NCAA Division I signees, the other one scored 14 of the Bearettes’ opening quarter points against Cookeville and came within two points of outscoring the visitors for the entire night.
With Middle Tennessee signee Rebecca Reuter having to sit out the last of a two-game suspension from being ejected in last year’s TSSAA substate game, Florida signee Brooke Copeland dominated throughout the evening, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots in just over three quarters of play.
Both of the Bearette 6-foot-2 “Twin Towers” made their committents official this morning, signing their respective scholarship papers on the NCAA early signing date.
“Brooke did what we needed her to do tonight,” declared coach Reuter. “I’m proud of the fact she stayed out of foul trouble and was able to help us get a good cushion so we could get some other players in.”
Copeland wasn’t the only standout performance for the Bearettes Tuesday evening as 5-foot-10 freshman Emma Kate Brown made the most of a starting opportunity with 11 points, seven rebounds and a steal in her varsity debut.
Another freshman, 5-foot-8 Halle Hughes, also played well, coming off the bench to score four points, plus get a rebound and a steal while running the Bearette offense from the point guard position.
Senior Mady Stallings was the starting point guard for the hosts and added seven points, four rebounds and a pair of steals.
Senior Lyndsy Davis helped out with three assists and three steals to go with her two points.
“We have a lot of names out there people aren’t familiar with, but they did a good job,” coach Reuter expressed. “I’m really proud of our young girls. They showed why they are going to see a lot of playing time this season.
“We adjusted well to Rebecca (Reuter) not being out there,” he added. “There will be times this season where we’ll have to play without her or Brooke at times, because of foul trouble or such. It’s no secret what the main part of our game is, but we need to be able to do more than just rely on them all the time.”
The Bearette defense held the visitors to just eight points in the opening period and seven in the second and third combined.
Cavaliers 61, Bears 37
Coach Clark’s crew battled tooth-and-nail with the visitors for five lead changes and a pair of ties in the opening eight minutes, but found themselves down 16-14 when the first horn sounded.
Bradley hit just 2-of-14 shots in the second frame, including just one of a dozen 3-pointers, but still only trailed by a half dozen points (28-22) at the half.
Cookeville was able to stretch its edge to double digits three times in the third period, but the Bears trimmed it back to single digits (40-31) going into the final frame.
The Bears went cold again from the floor in the last eight minutes, while the Cavaliers heated up for a 21-6 run to pull away.
“We got a good breakaway by Ty Morgan near the end of the third period but then we hit a stretch where we missed four or five shots and turned the ball over three or four times, and let them get away from us,” coach Clark commented.
“We got tired and broke down a little, but overall the guys were doing the little things we are looking for — pass deflections, hustling after loose ball,” he added.
Only one Bear scored in double figures as sophomore point guard Bradley McCurdy netted 11 points, while senior Taylor Bentley pulled down seven rebounds and drained a pair of 3-pointers for a half dozen points.
Bradley shot just 29 percent from the field, hitting only 5-of-20 3-point attempts and going 8-for-25 in front of the arc.
The much-taller Cookeville squad won the rebounding battle by a 33-18 margin, while hitting 50 percent of their shots from the field.
Cookeville 8 3 4 10 — 25
Bradley Central 17 14 12 11 — 54
LADY CAVALIERS (25) — Karagan Turner 14, Sydney Marek 4, Zoe Sims 3, Alison Odom 2, Courtney Savage 2, Toiya Gwynn 1, Syvanna Maberry, Heidi Smith, Syney Bean, Kendall Bohannon.
Bearettes (54) — Brooke Copeland 24, Emma Kate Brown 11, Mady Stallings 7, Katie Brown 4, Halle Hughes 4, Lyndsy Davis 2, Julia Gaither 2, Kayla Delane, Kailey McCree.
3-POINTERS: Cookeville 1 (Sims); Bradley 2 (Stallings, Copeland).
FREE THROWS: Cookeville7-of-11; Bradley 14-of-18.
RECORDS: Cookeville 0-1; Bradley Central 1-0
Cookeville 16 12 12 21 — 61
Bradley Central 14 8 9 6 — 37
CAVALIERS (61) — Austin Shrum 19, Will Buford 17, Mason Bates 7, Solon Carver 6, John Payne 4, Trey Bundrant 4, Hunter Shrum 2, Isaac Phillips 2, Jadon Richmond, Alex Wegerbaur.
BEARS (37) — Bradley McCurdy 11, Ty Morgan 9, Taylor Bentley 6, Walker McGowan 4, Logan Cox 4, Ty Beavers 3, Tyrell Pitner, Tucker Maroon, Gareb Humphrey, Matthew Maynard, Peyton Parker.
3-POINTERS: Cookeville 5 (A. Shrum 5); Bradley 5 (Bentley 2, Beavers, Cox, Morgan).
FREE THROWS: Cookeville 10-of-18; Bradley 6-of-7.
RECORDS: Cookeville 1-0; Bradley Central 0-1.