By JOE CANNON
1 col SUBHEAD: Bradleyadvancesto Final 4MURFREESBORO — Averaging almost 70 points a game, everybody talks about nationally ranked Bradley Central’s offense.When head coach Jason Reuter speaks of …
1 col SUBHEAD:
to Final 4
MURFREESBORO — Averaging almost 70 points a game, everybody talks about nationally ranked Bradley Central’s offense.
When head coach Jason Reuter speaks of his squad, it’s defense first.
“We hang our hat on our defense. We wanted to get their heart rate up. We knew they don’t have much depth, so we wanted to put the pressure on and try to wear them down,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
The plan worked as his Bearettes won their 33rd straight game by holding fifth-ranked Daniel Boone (30-5) to just 15 percent shooting (5-of-33) from the field.
Limiting their ninth opponent this season to less than 30 points, Bradley came away with a 56-27 victory to advance to the TSSAA Final Four for the second time in three years.
“Our defense has helped create our offense all year,” proclaimed the veteran “Papa Bear” after his “sleuth” of Bearettes claimed their second win of the season over the girls from Gray.
“We only turned them over 13 times tonight, but we scored 20 points off those turnovers.
“The biggest thing we did was put good pressure on their shots. They only made five field goals and scored the rest of their points at the foul line (16-for-21).”
Bradley, ranked No. 1 in one state poll and second in two others, will take on another familiar foe in Friday’s Blue Cross Championships semifinal, when they battle Houston.
“We beat Houston (59-43) in early December in the East/West Classic,” Reuter related. “They have Jayla Hemingway, who is a whale of a player and a Miss Tennessee Basketball finalist last year. They have premier guards.
“When you get to the Final Four, everybody’s good. I feel very confident playing Houston because we’ve seen them before, like we had Daniel Boone. Plus, we have this year’s Miss Tennessee Basketball (Rhyne Howard).”
Houston earned is shot at a state title game berth by blowing away Mount Juliet (24-9) by a 70-54 tally Wednesday at MTSU’s Murphy Center.
All four of the Class AAA quarterfinal games were decided by more than 23 points.
With identical scores of 77-50, two-time defending state champ Riverdale, ranked No. 1 in the final AP state poll, stopped Ravenwood (21-12), while Bearden eliminated Arlington (27-8).
Riverdale (34-1), ranked third nationally, will tangle with Bearden (29-7) at 11 Friday morning, while the Bearettes (33-0), No. 16 on the same USA Today list, will take the court for their rematch with the Lady Cougars (27-5) at around 12:30.
The state championship game, which Bradley hasn’t played in since 1995, will be Saturday afternoon at 2.
The Bearettes are looking for the storied program’s sixth state crown and first since the back-to-back state and national titles in 1975 and ’76.
After Howard put back in an offensive rebound for the initial score a minute into Wednesday’s opener, the Bearettes never trailed, racing out to a 16-4 edge by the first horn.
Daniel Boone (30-5) netted a lone field goal off an offensive carom by 6-foot-4 Carson-Newman signee Sydney Pearce at the 5:35 mark, plus a pair of free throws from Emily Sizemore with 48 ticks on the opening frame clock.
The second period was closer as Bradley posted just an 11-9 scoring advantage with the Lady Trailblazers getting a 3-pointer and a half dozen charity tosses.
“We came out a lot like we did against Blackman (in the TSSAA Sectional game) and almost doubled the score (27-13) by the half, but I felt we left eight or 10 points out there. We wasted a few opportunities, but this time of year you just say ‘Win, just win,’” remarked Coach Reuter.
“They (Boone) came out after the half and gave us a good run (8-2) to cut the lead from 14 to 8 points, but then they ran out of gas.”
“Travis (Mains, the DB coach) does a great job, but he has no depth on his bench, and we knew that. He played mainly five girls the whole game.”
Bradley closed the third quarter by netting the final 11 points.
“When Jamaryn (Blair) hit that 3 at the third quarter buzzer, it was [essentially] over. Then Hannah (Lombard) comes out and hits the first three shots of the fourth, including back-to-back 3s, to seal the deal,” the Bearette mentor praised.
“Everybody knows about Rhyne (Howard), Miss Basketball now, but the rest of our role players can do the job as well. All eight girls in our top rotation can shoot the 3, plus we’ve got a few others on the bench that can as well.
“Hannah Lombard is known as a scrapper under the basket and on defense, and she doesn’t shoot a lot of 3s (16-for-41 for 39 percent this season), but she can hit them,” Coach Reuter related.
“I was just open, and my mom tells me all the time, 'If you're open, shoot it,’ so I did,” explained Lombard, who led the team in scoring for the first in her career with 13 points, including a trio of treys, while hitting 5-of-7 shots from the field, plus she grabbed four rebounds.
After averaging 26.7 ppg her last 13 games, Howard was held to just 12 Wednesday, but helped out in other ways with a dozen rebounds, for her 13th double-double of the season, plus she dished five assists, copped three steals and had just one turnover.
“That (not being the top scorer) doesn’t bother me as long as we’re winning,” the Kentucky signee said of her 5-for-14 night from the field. “I don’t have to score for us to win. If my teammates are open, I get the ball to them, and they can knock down the shots.
“We felt confident coming in, because we had beaten them already this season. We knew it would come down to down to effort and attitude,” she added.
Blair came off the bench to help spark the winning effort with eight points.
“Jamaryn did a good job as a freshman playing in the state tournament. She struggled a little bit shooting early on, but she’s faster than most people out there and she grabbed three rebounds, gave out three assists, had two steals and a block,” Reuter commented.
Despite giving away three or more inches and more than 25 pounds to Pearce, Bearette posts Alexis Barnes and Anna Walker combined for 13 points and a half dozen boards, with the latter also swatting four Lady Trailblazer shots away.
“Walker and Barnes are two sophomores that are barely 6-foot, but they were able to work against her (Pearce) and score,” praised Coach Reuter. “They did a good job of going left against her, which is something they’ve been working on in practice.
“They also did a whale of a job defensively, keeping the ball away from Pearce. She did get five offensive rebounds, but she only made 3-of-8 shots because of the pressure we were able to put on her.”
Junior Kaleigh Hughes aided the victory with five points, two rebounds and handed out a pair of “dimes.”
Bradley shot just 52 percent (16-of-31) from in front of the arc and drilled 7-of-21 (33 percent) beyond it. The Bearettes were just 3-for-7 at the charity stripe.
Blue Cross State Championships
TSSAA Class AAA
Bradley Central;16;11;13;17 — 57
Daniel Boone;4;9;8;6 — 27
BEARETTES (57) — Hannah Lombard 13, Rhyne Howard 12, Jamaryn Blair 8, Alexis Barnes 7, Anna Walker 6, Kaleigh Hughes 5, Anna Roberts 4, Kelsey Carman 2, Cambree Mayo, Kaitlin Hullender, Amelia Reuter, Anna Muhonen, Jamia Williams.
LADY TRAILBLAZERS (27) — Bailey Carmichel 8, Sydney Pearce 7, Macie Culbertson 5, Emily Sizemore 4, Jacie Jenkins 3, Keyfauver, Gibson, Casey, Dye, Carroll, Kosinski.
3-POINTERS: BC 7 (Lombard 3, Howard 2, Hughes,Blair): DB 1 (Carmichel) .
FREE THROWS: BC 3-of-7: DB 16-of-21.
RECORDS: Bradley Central 33-0: Daniel Boone 30-5.
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