Editor's Note: A special winter sports preview section insert will be included in Tuesday's edition of the Banner.Bring on the buzzer beaters, rim-rattling dunks, capacity-filled crowds in Jim Smiddy …
Editor’s Note: A special winter sports preview section insert will be included in Tuesday’s edition of the Banner.
Bring on the buzzer beaters, rim-rattling dunks, capacity-filled crowds in Jim Smiddy Arena and dreams of marching to Murfreesboro.
Basketball season is back in Bradley County, home to District 5-AAA’s past 14 champions.
Over the past seven seasons either the Blue Raiders, Mustangs or Bears have been crowned champions on the boys side. Ranked nationally at times, the Bearettes have won eight straight district titles.
Leaving past success behind, each new squad looks to create their own history.
Here are two big storylines as the 2018-19 hoops season is upon us with opening tip arriving this Tuesday for the BC and CHS girls.
The amount of consecutive victories the Bradley girls have over district opponents.
Since Jason Reuter’s arrival the program has returned close to the prestige of its glory days as one of the state’s top Class AAA teams.
Spoiled with the five-star contributions from Rhyne Howard over the past four seasons, the Bearettes will be put to a tougher test without their phenom.
Howard was dynamic in her college debut for Kentucky. Starting at the two-spot, she scored 15 points (6-of-11 FG, 3-of-5 3PT, 2-of-2 FT) and recorded six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in just 20 minutes. The Lady Wildcats won 87-35.
While pressure will come at a new-look team, 6-foot-1 junior forward Anna Walker (Samford commit) looks ready to lead a talented bunch that includes capable sharp shooters and a up-and-coming point guard in Jamaryn Blair.
Bradley has size down low and talented guards no one can overlook.
With Cleveland expected to take another step forward and East Hamilton bringing back D-I prospect in junior Madison Hayes, complete blowouts could become single digit differences later in games.
The playing field should be a little more competitive, but Bradley still is the favorite until someone proves otherwise. The last time they lost to a district foe came in a gym that does not exist anymore.
Reuter’s team will still look to press and create havoc on the defensive end, while scorers will have to take another step forward.
When a team has dominated for so long, the Bearettes have a target on their backs they will try to defend.
RAIDERS EVEN BETTER?
The past two seasons Cleveland has steam rolled its way to the district championship behind a high-powered offensive attack.
While Deontae Davis will not be seen hitting flat-footed 3-pointers at will this season, a chance to elevate their game arrives for several playmakers.
Senior Dionte Ware (6-foot-5) is fully-recovered from a minor offseason injury and proved so by posterizing a defender in Cleveland’s 65-36 play day victory over Science Hill Saturday afternoon. The Hilltoppers were 25-9 overall and finished one win away from the state tournament last season.
Many who have seen the talent the Blue Raiders have had on the court the past two seasons considered Jason McCowan’s team to be one of the state’s top five teams in Class AAA.
Ware returns capable of a 20-10 performance any given night and hitting from anywhere on the court.
Perhaps one of the biggest things to watch is the leap junior point guard Jacobi Wood will make.
As the team’s second primary ball-handler last season he still averaged four assists per game and led the team in assist to turnover ratio.
Division-I colleges have come flooding in to Raider Arena and on the phones to contact Wood this offseason, as his scoring ability took another step forward.
Expected to be given the green-light even more offensively, Wood has great attention to detail for when the best time to shoot and pass is. If he can knock down 3-pointers with more consistency there is a chance for him to score in the high 20’s some nights while flirting with double digit assist totals.
Cleveland won all 14 of their district contests last season with an average margin of victory of a massive 29 points.
East Hamilton lost several playmakers, including District Player of the Year Justin Dozier, while Bradley looks to take a promising step forward with promising youthful talent. Walker Valley will look to begin a new era under first-year head coach Will Campbell who has standout point guard Jordan Munck returning.
With the start of any new season question marks will arrive, but the Blue Raiders look to be the clear cut favorites and a state tournament contender.
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