The Bradley Central boys poured in a dozen “treys,” including seven from junior Logan Cox, as the Bears trailed just once in an 81-59 victory to keep pace with rivals Cleveland High and Ooltewah atop the District 5-AAA standings.
Meanwhile in the girls’ game, “Downtown” Julie Brown drilled from distance five times as Rhea doubled up the hosts 18-9 on her first shot of the second period before the Bearettes came roaring back to hold the visitors to just 11 points the rest of the night and claim their 21st victory of the season by a 43-29 margin.
Bradley will wrap up the regular season this week with a trip to the north end of the county to face Walker Valley Tuesday evening in a big matchup at “The Stable,” before hosting Ooltewah Friday evening with the boys’ game possibly being for No. 1 seed in the upcoming district tournament.
“Tuesday is going to be very tough and everything may be on the line Friday night,” expressed head coach Kent Smith, whose Bears are currently 14-9 on the season and 8-2 in district play.
The Owls are 15-7 and 9-2 with only Bradley to play in the district, while Cleveland is 15-8 and 9-2 with Rhea County coming to the Raider Dome Tuesday for their lone 5-AAA game remaining.
“We can’t afford to look ahead to Ooltewah, because Walker Valley is going to bring everything they have against us Tuesday night. They pushed Ooltewah to overtime and lost to Cleveland by a point tonight (Friday), so they won’t hold anything back against us,” expressed Smith.
The Friday twinbill marked the final time Rhea County will play in Smiddy Arena as a member of District 5-AAA as the Eagle squads move to District 6-AAA beginning next season.
Bouncing back from having an eight-game win streak snapped at Baylor Wednesday evening, the Bears were in a dogfight early before going on a 17-4 run late in the first and early in the second frame to pull out to a double-digit advantage and never look back.
After the teams swapped the first nine points, Bradley went on a quick 10-4 spurt to go up by seven points midway through the opening period. However, the Eagles (9-13, 4-7 District 5-AAA) came screaming back with 10-2 run of their own to take their only lead of the game at 18-17.
The Bears netted four of the game’s next five baskets, including an NBA-range 3-pointer by senior Bryce Copeland just before the first period buzzer and a bomb by Cox to open the second frame.
Cox drilled five of his “treys” in the second period as Bradley led by as much as 14 before hitting the half century mark for an 11-point halftime advantage.
The Bears came out of the locker rooms strong, nailing three of the first four buckets, including 3-pointers by both Cox and Copeland, as the hosts led by 16 when the horn sounded on the third period. Bradley tacked a half dozen more points onto the difference in the final eight minutes.
“This is a big win for us to stay in the district race,” commented Copeland, who led all scorers with 29 points, including four long-range baskets, seven assists, four rebounds and a trio of steals.
“We played better defense in the second half (giving up just 20 points after allowing 39 in the first 16 minutes) and the shots just kept going in,” Copeland added. “Logan had a great night shooting. It was contagious.”
Cox smoked the nylon on 7-of-10 shots from beyond the arc to finish with a career-high 27 points, plus he pulled down five caroms.
“Logan (Cox) had a great shooting night and Bryce (Copeland) was hot as well,” declared coach Smith, who is 37-2 against the Eagles in his 17 years on the Bear bench. “We outrebounded them by 10 (28-18), plus we had 21 assists and just nine turnovers, so it was a good team effort.”
As a team, the Bears hit 63 percent (12-of-19) from distance and 55 percent (16-for-29) from the two-point area plus made 13-of-17 free throws.
Senior Matt Whitmire helped out the victors with 15 points, while junior Taylor Bentley helped out with five points and five helps.
Sophomore Daniel Clark came off the bench as the “chairman of the boards” with nine rebounds, while junior Baylor Terrell dished off a half dozen assists and claimed three caroms. Senior Caleb Cain cleaned the glass for five rebounds in the victory.
Josh Smith had the hot hand for Rhea County, matching Cox’s 27 points, with four 3-pointers, while Nick McWherter added a dozen as the only other Eagle with more than four points.
Rhea shot 44 percent from the field, going 17-for-35 in front of the arc and just 4-of-12 from beyond it.
LADY EAGLES 29
For the third time in four days, the Bradley girls (21-2, 10-0) struggled coming out of the gate but then turned things around for a double digit victory, although they posted their second-lowest point total of the season.
“Playing three games in four days not only causes fatigue, but doesn’t give us much time to prepare for each opponent,” explained head coach Jason Reuter, who notched his 80th victory since taking over the Bearette program three seasons ago.
Posting its best record in the last 13 seasons, Rhea County (17-8, 5-5) hit nothing but 3-pointers (four by Brown and one from Amber Levi) in the opening period to claim a 15-9 advantage at the first horn.
After Brown opened the second frame with her final “trey” of the evening, the visitors made just one more basket before the intermission. Bradley rallied with a 13-2 run keyed by an old fashioned three-point play by junior Brooke Copeland and 9-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line. The Bearettes took the lead when senior Baylee Carroll took a feed from junior point guard Whitney Donaldson for a basket from the paint with 58 ticks left in the half.
After Copeland opened the second half with an offensive rebound putback, the Lady Eagles pulled within one of the lead on a Levi 3-pointer, but once again that would be the only points the Bearettes would allow in a 12-minute span.
Leading by seven points going into the final frame, Bradley capped its 42nd victory in the last 43 meetings against the Lady Eagles with a 13-4 run before giving up a pair of free throws in the final 35 seconds.
“We couldn’t shoot any worse from the perimeter (0-for-13 beyond the arc) and didn’t shoot well in general, but we learned different ways to score,” commented coach Reuter as his squad was 12-for-22 from the two-point area, plus made 19-of-26 charity tosses.
Like her older brother, Copeland led all scorers with 18 points, plus cleaned the glass for 11 boards to complete the double-double.
Senior Brandi Whitted sank 3-of-4 shots from the field and all three of her free throws for nine points, plus she cleared three caroms.
Donaldson collected six points, a half dozen assists, five rebounds and two steals, while Rebecca Reuter netted the other six Bearette points in limited playing time due to foul trouble.
Brown’s 15 was tops for Rhea, which shot just 17 percent (3-of-17) from close range, but was 7-for-21 from distance. Levi had eight points, while the other half dozen were spread among four Lady Eagles.
“We have some mistakes to corrected,” commented coach Reuter. “We won and nobody got hurt, and that’s the most important thing.”
Rhea County 15 5 3 6 — 29
Bradley Central 9 13 8 13 — 43
BEARETTES (43) — Brooke Copeland 18, Brandi Whitted 9, Reuter 6, Donaldson 6, Carroll 4, Withrow, Davis, Pippenger, Thompson, Delane, Stallings, Hill.
LADY EAGLES (29) — Julie Brown 15, Levi 8, Revis 2, Loden 2, Freeman 1, Thompson 1, Keen, Matthews, Thurman.
3-point goals: Rhea 7 (Brown 5, Levi 2); Bradley 0.
Free throws: Rhea 2-of-4; Bradley 19-of-26.
Records: Rhea County 17-8, 5-5 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 21-2, 10-0 District 5-AAA.
Rhea County 20 19 11 9 — 59
Bradley Central 24 26 16 15 — 81
EAGLES (59) — Josh Smith 27, Nick McWherter 12, Jenkins 4, Patterson 4, Hall 3, Hill 3, Harrison 2, Loden 2, Downey 2, Crook, Hunter.
BEARS (81) — Bryce Copeland 29, Logan Cox 27, Matt Whitmire 15, Bentley 5, Clark 3, Cain 2, Terrell, McCurdy, Crisp, McGowan, Maroon, Morgan.
3-point goals: Rhea 4 (Smith 4); Bradley 12 (Cox 7, Copeland 4, Bentley).
Free throws: Rhea 12-of-16; Bradley 13-of-17.
Records: Rhea County 9-13, 4-7 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 14-9, 8-2 District 5-AAA.