The first meeting of the District 5-AAA girls’ hoop season between favorites Bradley Central and Cleveland turned out to be the “Brooke Copeland Show,” as the junior matched the Lady Raider scoring effort in the first half before finishing with a career-high performance in a 27-point Bearette victory.
After reaching the 1,000-point mark in the Mountain View Inn Thanksgiving Tournament championship game last Sunday, Copeland came out on fire Friday evening at Jim Smiddy Arena, scorching the nylon for 32 points, plus cleaning the glass for 15 rebounds in just three quarters of play in Bradley’s 67-40 victory over its arch rivals.
“Nobody could have stopped her tonight,” declared Bearette head coach Jason Reuter. “She was like (NBA Hall of Famer) Moses Malone out there. If it didn’t go in the first time, she’d grab the rebound and put it back in. She was playing with a passion and tenacity that was great to watch.”
“It really felt good, especially against them (Cleveland),” Copeland declared. “We are always really hyped to play them. Our execution got it done tonight. We came out ready to fight and win.”
The 6-foot-2 post made 12-of-24 shots from the field, including the lone Bearette 3-pointer, plus drained 7-of-10 free throws. Seven of Copeland’s 15 caroms came off the offensive glass, plus she copped a trio of steals, handed out a pair of assists and blocked two Lady Raider shots before watching the final frame from the sideline.
“They (Cleveland) didn’t have an answer for her,” commented coach Reuter. “The way she was playing tonight, I don’t know if any team could have stopped her.”
The victory is the fourth in as many games for the Bearettes, while the Lady Raiders slipped to 2-2 on the young campaign.
Bradley will return to the Smiddy Arena hardwood Tuesday evening when Soddy-Daisy comes calling for a district match up, while the Cleveland ladies will travel to Alcoa Monday, before hosting East Hamilton Tuesday.
Allowing the Lady Raiders just two field goals in the first six minutes Friday evening, the two-time defending district champion Bearettes raced out to a 16-4 advantage as Copeland poured in her first dozen points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Cleveland, which has played Bradley in the last two 5-AAA title games and are predicted to vie for the championship again this season, fought back with nine unanswered points to trim the difference to just three points.
Bearette point guard Whitney Donaldson found teammate Rebecca Reuter in the lane for a basket just before the first period buzzer sounded to push the lead back to five points (18-13) at the break.
The second frame started as the first had with Bradley pushing its advantage back to double digits with a 9-2 run in the first three and a half minutes.
After the teams traded the next six baskets, the hosts finished off the opening half by netting seven of the final nine points before the intermission for a 38-23 lead. Copeland equalled Cleveland’s 23-point first half output and already had her double-double with 10 rebounds at the midway mark.
Bradley kept the pressure on with a 17-3 run to open the second half. Cleveland had a brief bright spot near the end of the third period when sophomore Hallea McClendon hit a shot from the lane then 30 seconds later LMU signee Sydnie Anderson drained a 3-pointer, but Copeland spoiled the quick spurt with her final turn-around jumper of the night just before the buzzer.
The fourth verse was the same as the first three as the Black-and-Gold dominated early, pushing their advantage to its highest point at 31 points, before a pair of buckets by junior Nora Berry, plus a free throw each by Anderson and Bradley’s Maddie Stallings gave the game its final score.
Despite spraining her shooting wrist earlier in the week, newcomer Whitney Donaldson had her highest point total since joining the Bearettes with a dozen points, plus she dished out six assists.
“She’s (Donaldson) got a lot of moxie and plays hard. She is making strides each game,” stated coach Reuter. “She is still getting used to our style of play and we are getting used to hers.”
Junior Rebecca Reuter struggled some from the floor, but posted a double-double of her own with 11 points and 11 rebounds, plus she blocked three shots.
Senior Brandi Whitted netted seven points and dished out five helps, while classmate Kayla Withrow copped a team-high four steals and gave out four assists. Senior Baylee Carroll came off the bench to pulled down four caroms as the Bearettes dominated the boards by a 38-20 margin.
“Although Brooke (Copeland) had such a great night, it wasn’t just her. We got another good team effort tonight,” assessed coach Reuter. “I said before the season that since we lost so much (six seniors) from last year’s team, we’d get better as the season goes along and we get more playing time together.”
For Cleveland, the starting lineup was short handed Friday with senior Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad out with a broken hand, while her sister Qetuwrah and Anderson, plus another starter, had missed practice most of the week.
“This wasn’t the week of preparation we wanted before playing Bradley,” remarked Lady Raider head coach Mindy Kiser. “We had four (starters) out at one point. We got a lot of work with our youngers girls this week and they fought hard. Shawnie (Anderson, a 5-foot-10 freshman) and McClendon did good inside.
“It was the same story as last year though with us having trouble scoring at times,” the second-year Cleveland coach stated. “Hopefully we’ll get healthier and start pulling it together.”
Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad and Berry led the Lady Raiders with a dozen points apiece, with the former grabbing seven caroms, copping a pair of steals and blocking a shot.
The Anderson sisters combined for 11 points in the contest.
Cleveland 13 10 8 9 — 40
Bradley Central 18 20 19 10 — 67
LADY RAIDERS (40) — Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 12, Nora Berry 12, Sydnie Anderson 7, Shawnie Anderson 4, Jenna Scoggins 2, Hallea McClendon 2, Sarah Crump 1, Kellie Geren, Bre Ware, Jordan Capron.
BEARETTES (67) — Brooke Copeland 32, Whitney Donaldson 12, Rebecca Reuter 11, Brandi Whitted 7, Baylee Carroll 2, Lindsey Davis 2, Maddie Stallings 1, Kayla Withrow 5, Taelor Hill, Emma Wright, Kayla Delane, Lydia Pippenger.
3-POINTERS: Cleveland 1 (Sydnie Anderson); Bradley 1 (Brooke Copeland).
FREE THROWS: Cleveland 9-of-19; Bradley 13-of-25.
RECORDS: Cleveland 2-2, 0-1 District 5-AAA; Bradley 4-0, 1-0 District 5-AAA.