By JOE CANNON
Paul Cretton returned to the site of his coaching “glory days” with a good game plan, helping his current herd come as close as almost anyone has to beating his former team this season.“Our …
Paul Cretton returned to the site of his coaching “glory days” with a good game plan, helping his current herd come as close as almost anyone has to beating his former team this season.
“Our kids played hard and did a better job rebounding than we had been, but in the end we had too many turnovers against an awfully good team,” he assessed after Walker Valley came up just short in a 50-42 outcome at Jim Smiddy Arena against top-ranked and undefeated Bradley Central Friday evening.
After trailing by 13 points at the half, the Lady Mustangs outscored the hosts 29-24 in the final 16 minutes, making it just the fifth time this season a team has come within single digits of the nationally-ranked Bearettes.
“We needed to be a little more disciplined in some areas. Bradley is well coached and very athletic. Even though we did some things to disrupt what they do, they were able to turn us over and do enough to hold us off,” commented the man who won 88.5 percent (177-28) of his games when he directed the Bearettes from 1993-99.
With his Lady Mustangs 9-7 overall and 2-4 in the District 5-AAA race, Cretton knows his herd needs to make a strong stretch run before hosting the league tournament.
“We’ve got to pick it up in the second half. We have some big road games (at Cleveland, East Hamilton and McMinn County) coming up that we need to win,” he related.
The Lady Mustangs will return to “The Stable” Tuesday as Soddy-Daisy (4-12, 0-6) comes calling.
Walker Valley pays a visit to Raider Arena for a key conference matchup Friday evening.
Ranked No. 1 in the current Associated Press state poll and 18th nationally by USA Today, Bradley has opened with 19 straight wins for the second straight season, making a clean sweep through the first half of the district slate.
The Bearettes will entertain Cookeville (11-10) Tuesday before traveling up I-75 to Athens Friday.
McMinn County (11-4, 4-2) is currently tied with fourth-ranked East Hamilton (17-2, 4-2), which they knocked off earlier this week, and Cleveland (10-8, 4-2), who defeated them 59-54 two nights ago.
Walker Valley netted the first four points Friday evening on a pair of Haley Jones free throws and a nice dish from Macey Clark to Emily Anderson in the lane.
Bradley finally found the bottom of the net on its sixth and eighth attempts, both 3-pointers, from junior Hannah Lombard and sophomore Cambree Mayo, respectively.
After Anderson tied it up for the only time in the contest, Mayo copped a steal and turned it into a fast-break basket for the Bearettes’ first field goal attempt from inside the 19-foot arc with 2:35 left in the opening period.
Bradley was able to stretch its advantage to a half dozen points on another trey by Mayo and a steal and assist by sophomore Anna Walker leading to a layup by Kentucky signee Rhyne Howard.
Clark trimmed the difference to 13-9 with a put back of an offensive rebound just before the first horn sounded.
Howard took over in the second frame, scoring 10 of her game-high 18 points with 3-balls to bookend a 13-2 Bearette rally.
Mauren Baker was able to add a pair of charity tosses for the visitors just before the intermission as the score stood at 26-13 at the break.
The momentum shifted as soon as the Lady Mustangs galloped out of the locker room, netting eight points, including back-to-back long-range bombs by seniors Lauren Lay and Clark, while the hosts missed their first half dozen shots and turned the ball over twice in the opening five minutes.
Breaking the cold spell, Howard drained her third trey of the night, sparking a 9-2 Bearette run before Clark drilled a shot from “way downtown,” closing the difference to just nine points heading into the final eight minutes.
The Black-and-Gold opened the fourth frame with seven straight points to push the lead back to 16.
A few minutes later, Mayo’s final of three treys gave Bradley it’s largest advantage (18) with just under three minutes remaining.
The Lady Mustangs weren’t willing to surrender, netting the game’s final 10 points.
Clark drilled a pair of NBA-range 3-pointers, while Lay made a couple of charity tosses and Abbey Davis dropped in a jumper with 14 ticks on the clock.
“Macey (Clark) went 5-for-7 on 3-pointers and we made all but one (8-of-9) of our free throws,” related Coach Cretton. “Our girls fought to the very end, so I was proud of that.”
“Credit Walker Valley. This is why we play the games,” proclaimed head coach Jason Reuter, who is now 219-28 (88.7 percent) in his eighth season at the Bradley helm.
“They defended us well and we didn’t shoot well, only 33 percent from the field. We missed our first five wide-open shots and that sort of set the tone.
“We tried to force the ball where it didn’t need to go some and we turned it over 18 times ourselves.
“There’s no doubt our defense won this game for us tonight. We were able to get 27 turnovers, which would normally mean a 20-plus point win, but our shooting was so off it didn’t tonight,” Reuter remarked.
The Bearette coach also gave credit to his bench, which scored 24 of the team’s 50 points.
“Rhyne (Howard) is very consistent, so we know what we’re going to get from her, but it seems like each night somebody different really steps up big for us. Tonight it was Cambree (Mayo). She was a game-saver for us.”
The speedy sophomore guard went 3-for-5 from distance and made both of her close range shots for 13 points, plus swiped a trio of steals and snagged three rebounds in 18 minutes of playing time.
Howard, who was named as one of 25 finalists for the Naismith High School Player of the Year Award Thursday, collected six caroms, a half dozen assists, five steals and blocked a shot.
Lombard helped out with five points, six ricochets, a trio of helps and a theft.
Also coming off the Bearette bench, freshman Jamaryn Blair netted a half dozen points, grabbed five rebounds, swiped four steals and dished a pair of “dimes.”
Sophomore Alexis Barnes added five markers, four caroms, an assist, a steal and blocked a shot.
Sophomore starter Anna Walker netted just three points, but pulled down four boards, swiped three steals, and gave out an assist in the victory.
Clark led the Fillies with 17 points, seven rebounds and a half dozen helps, plus copped three steals and blocked a shot.
Lay helped out with 10 markers, five boards and a theft.
Anderson was perfect on four shots, three from the field and one at the foul line, plus cleared four caroms and had a steal.
The 6-foot-3 Jones cleaned the glass for six rebounds, netted four points, swiped three thefts and blocked a pair of shots, while Davis had four ricochets, four steals and a couple of helps.
Both teams claimed 29 rebounds and attempted nine free throws in the contest with the Lady Mustangs making eight and the Bearettes just five.
Walker Valley nailed 6-of-13 (46.3 percent) from beyond the arc compared to 9-for-31 (29 percent) for Bradley, which got off 19 more shots (54-35) overall from the field.
Walker Valley;9;4;13;16 — 42
Bradley Central;13;13;9;15 — 50
LADY MUSTANGS (42) — Macey Clark 17, Lauren Lay 10, Anderson 7, Jones 4, Davis 2, Baker 2, Nipper, Fowler, Harris.
BEARETTES (50) — Rhyne Howard 18, Cambree Mayo 13, Blair 6, Barnes 5, Lombard 5, Walker 3, Roberts, Hughes.
3-POINTERS: WV 6 (Clark 5, Lay): BC 9 (Howard 3, Mayo 3, Blair 2, Lombard).
FREE THROWS: WV 8-of-9: BC 5-of-9.
RECORDS: Walker Valley 9-7, 2-4 District 5-AAA: Bradley Central 19-0, 6-0 District 5-AAA.
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