Connecting on their first 16 shots, including a half dozen 3-pointers, Bradley Central posted its highest point total of the season with an 88-48 final for its seventh straight win.
“This really surprised me tonight,” declared 17-year Bear head coach Kent Smith. “We didn’t practice well yesterday (Monday), but we came out tonight with a good game plan and when we hit our first several shots it was contagious. Everybody started feeling good and confident about their shots and they kept going in.”
The Bears were consistent across the board on the night in hitting 69 percent (22-of-32) from in front of the arc, 68 percent (11-of-16) from beyond it and 65 percent (11-of-17) from the free-throw line for their highest point total since a 93-64 win over Walker Valley back on Feb. 17, 2007.
The Bradley boys had the main spotlight to themselves Tuesday evening as the varsity girls had the night off, but the junior varsity Bearettes claimed a 49-22 victory with freshman Taelor Hill netting 24 points to outscore the visitors by herself.
Both Bradley varsity teams will be back in action Friday evening as Ooltewah comes calling for a key District 5-AAA matchup.
The Bears (12-8, 6-2 District 5-AAA) can put the district race into a three-way tie with a victory over the Owls (14-5, 8-1). Cleveland High (12-8) is also 6-2 in 5-AAA play as the regular season has just a couple more weeks before the district tournament at the Raider Dome.
Senior Matt Whitmire got the Bradley scoring train rolling Tuesday evening with one of his patented 15-foot jumpers and the Bears kept finding the bottom of the net until finally a 3-point attempt at the 5:46 mark of the second period rimmed out for the first Bear miss.
Whitmire and classmate Bryce Copeland did the majority of the damage in the opening period with nine and 10 points respectively, as the hosts raced out to a 24-13 lead by the first buzzer.
Bradley continued the onslaught by netting the first dozen points — a trio of treys by Baylor Terrell and Taylor Bentley (2), plus a three-point play by Copeland — of the second period before the visitors got off a shot.
After Baylor (8-7) was able to sink back-to-back baskets, the Bears went on an 11-0 run capped by a Logan Cox 3-point bomb on their way to a 49-23 halftime advantage.
Having hit 19-of-25 shots from the field in the first half, Bradley came back down to earth early in the third frame, making just three of its first 10 attempts, but then clicked off three straight, plus five free throws to push the edge to 32 points heading into the final period.
Having already substituted freely, coach Smith kept his starters on the bench for the fourth quarter but the hot streak continued as the reserves closed out the contest with a 20-12 run, including seven points from sophomore Daniel Clark and a pair of 3-pointers from Bradley McCurdy.
Copeland finished atop the scoring sheet with 26 points, including 6-of-9 on two-pointers, all three of his long range shots and 5-for-6 at the charity stripe. He also dished out three assists.
Whitmire had a perfect night, sinking all six of his field goals and his four free throws for 16 points, plus he pulled down five rebounds and handed off a couple of helps. Bentley was 4-of-6 from downtown as he collected 14 points, copped five steals and dished off five assists.
Bradley almost had more assists than rebounds, 24 on 33 made baskets, while cleaning the glass for 25 caroms. Clark, Terrell, McCurdy and senior Caleb Cain had three helps apiece.
Baylor, which only dressed eight players due to injuries, including Middle Tennessee commitment Reggie Upshaw, was led by Clay Born, who sank four 3-pointers on his way to 16 points. Jeff Bowens netted 10, including all four of his free throws.
The Red Raiders shot just 37 percent (18-of-49) from the field, but were perfect on their seven foul shots.
Bearettes 49, Lady Raiders 22
With the varsity girls taking the night off, the JV Bearettes stepped into the 6 p.m. time slot and used a 29-9 run during the second and third frames to pull away for the 27-point victory.
Hill did the majority of the damage for Bradley, scoring 11 of her 24 points in the opening half and then exploding for 10 in the third period alone. She made 9-of-11 free throws on the evening.
Lydia Pippenger and Julia Gaither helped out with eight points piece in the victory.
Baylor 13 10 13 12 — 48
Bradley Central 24 25 19 20 — 88
RED RAIDERS (43) — Clay Born 16, Jeff Bowens 10, Upshaw 5, Lupus 4, Clendenon 4, Scaberry 4, Maum 3, Giussani 2.
BEARS (88) — Bryce Copeland 26, Matt Whitmire 16, Taylor Bentley 14, Clark 7, McCurdy 6, Terrell 5, Cain 4, Morgan 4, Cox 3, Crisp 2, McGowan 1, Maroon.
3-point goals: Baylor 5 (Born 4, Maum); Bradley 11 (Bentley 4, Copeland 3, McCurdy 2, Cox, Terrell).
Free throws: Baylor 7-of-7; Bradley 11-of-17.
Records: Baylor 8-7; Bradley Central 12-8.