A pair of unbeaten girls’ teams took the floor first for three very evenly matched quarters of action, but a strong second frame gave the Bearettes a deceptive 67-50 road victory.
In the boys’ battle, the lead changed hands or was tied 21 times before the host Warriors were able to rally from a six-point fourth quarter deficit to take the lead with their 10th 3-pointer of the contest with 1:53 remaining before securing the 65-61 victory at the free-throw line.
“All three of our losses are by a combined 10 points and have come when we’ve given up double-digit offensive rebounds,” lamented an aggravated coach Kent Smith. “We had three starters who combined for just three rebounds.
“That’s (White County) a tough environment to play in. We can’t afford to make those kind of mistakes,” the veteran Bear mentor continued. ”We’ve got some kids that need to grow up in a hurry.”
While the Bradley girls are now 6-0 on the season, the Bears slip to 2-3 as both squads will return to District 5-AAA action Tuesday evening with a short trip down Interstate 75 to Ooltewah.
Coach Smith pointed to a couple of key mistakes by his squad in Friday’s loss to White County, whose only loss in six games came to Walker Valley.
“Right at the start of the second half, we hit a 3, then get a steal and a fast-break basket to go up by six, but a sophomore trailing the play goes up to make sure the ball goes in and grabs the rim. We give them two technical free throws, plus they got another basket after the inbounds (pass) to make it a two-point game.
“Then in the fourth quarter we’re up by six, grab a rebound (after a White County miss) and have the ball taken away from us, for a quick basket, plus we foul them on the shot and all of a sudden we’re only up by three. We have such a small margin of error against a good team, that those are two types of mistakes we can’t afford to make.”
The seesaw battle which had the Warriors up three at the first break, found the Bears taking a one-point lead into the half thanks to a 3-pointer by junior Logan Cox just before the buzzer.
After blowing a six-point advantage early in the third quarter, when the hosts hit three straight 3-pointers, Bradley fought back with a four-point play by senior Bryce Copeland, plus drained the final two baskets of the frame to regain a three-point edge.
Although Bradley once again pushed ahead by a half dozen points early in the final period, the tenacious Warriors rallied to score 11 of the game’s final 13 points as Copeland’s uncontested jumper in the lane with 10.6 second on the clock was the lone Bear basket in the final four minutes of the contest. Bradley missed six shots down the stretch, four of which came from beyond the 19-foot arc.
For the game Bradley was perfect on seven charity tosses and 21-of-33 from the two-point area, but were just 4-for-20 from long range. The hosts made 10 shots each from beyond and in front of the arc, on 16 close-range attempts and 27 tries from downtown.
“Most of their two-point goals were on offensive rebound putbacks,” declared coach Smith. “When they’d miss a 3, they’d get the rebound and were able to put it back in. We got outrebounded by 20 in our loss to Austin-East, by 12 against Cleveland and by seven last night (at Sparta).” The Bears’ three losses have come to teams that are a combined 16-3 on the season.
Copeland’s double-double led the Bear attack with a game-high 20 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and a trio of assists.
Cox drained three of Bradley’s four 3-pointers on his way to 13 points, while 6-foot-5 senior Matt Whitmire helped out with a dozen points, plus he pulled down eight caroms.
Daniel Clark copped five steals and netted eight points in the contest, while junior Baylor Terrell dished out five assists.
The Bradley girls found themselves in unfamiliar territory Friday night, falling into a quick 5-0 hole that stretched to a 13-5 deficit in the first four minutes of the contest.
“We are used to being the ones to get out of the gate strong,” declared Bearette head coach Jason Reuter, whose team missed five of its first six shots. “It took us a little by surprise but then we were able to settle down and turn things around.”
Rally they did, going on a 7-0 run before taking the lead they would never relinquish when senior Kayla Withrow drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key just as the opening period buzzer sounded.
Bradley continued its run by holding the host scoreless for the first five minutes of the second frame while pumping in 11 more points; it then closed out the half by netting nine of the final 11 points, for a 15-point lead at the intermission.
“We won the game there in the first half,” declared coach Reuter. “I’m proud of the way the girls responded. We’re on the road in a tough gym to play in, with a big home crowd and their band playing, so you barely hear anything, but we overcame all that and played a great game.”
The two teams, who have squared off five times with state tournament bids on the line, battled almost evenly after the break, with the Bearettes holding a slim 32-30 scoring edge in the final 16 minutes.
Making “double trouble” for the hosts, 6-foot-2 junior Rebecca Reuter sank 8-of-9 field goals for a career-high 19 points to pace the victory, plus she cleaned the glass for nine rebounds.
Her “Twin Tower” teammate Brooke Copeland also posted an impressive double-double with 18 points and 16 boards, plus she handed out four assists and blocked three shots and swiped a trio of thefts.
Withrow also netted double-digit points, sinking a trio of treys on her way to 15 points, plus she copped three steals. Junior Whitney Donaldson helped out with eight points and three assists, while senior Brandi Whitted dished out five helps, netted five points and swiped three thefts.
The Bearettes sank 21-of-31 shots from in front of the arc and 6-of-14 beyond it, while the Warriorettes countered with 11-for-32 two-point shots and drilled 9-of-22 long-range bombs.
Bradley won the battle of the boards by a 35-21 margin.
Bradley Central 15 20 17 15 — 67
White County 14 6 17 13 — 50
BEARETTES (67) — Rebecca Reuter 19, Brooke Copeland 18, Kayla Withrow 15, Donaldson 8, Whitted 5, Carroll 2, Thompson, Davis.
WARRIORETTES (50) — Loren Foster 17, Wilson 8, Roberts 8, Quillen 6, King 5, Lewis 2, Hudgens 2, Taylor 2, Cash.
3-POINTERS: Bradley 6 (Withrow 3, Donaldson, Whitted, Copeland); White County 9 (Foster 4, Roberts 2, Wilson 2, King).
FREE THROWS: Bradley 13-of-18; White County 3-of-4.
RECORDS: Bradley 6-0; White County 5-1.
Bradley Central 13 19 17 12 — 61
White County 16 15 15 19 — 65
BEARS (61) — Bryce Copeland 20, Logan Cox 13, Matt Whitmire 12, Clark 8, Terrell 4, Bentley 2, Cain 2.
WARRIORS (65) — AJ Wilkerson 17, Dalton Nash 15, Kordell Henderson 14, Young 8, Crosland 8, Newport 2, Stephenson 1, Cole.
3-point goals: Bradley Central 4 (Cox 3, Copeland); White County 10 (Wilkerson 3, Young 2, Henderson 2, Crosland 2, Newport).
Free throws: Bradley Central 7-of-7; White County 15-of-20.
Records: Bradley Central 2-2; White County 5-1.