By JOE CANNON
The Bradley Central girls overcame an off-the-court distraction, but the Bears continually shot themselves in the paw as their oldest rivals came to town Tuesday night.Facing McMinn County in their …
The Bradley Central girls overcame an off-the-court distraction, but the Bears continually shot themselves in the paw as their oldest rivals came to town Tuesday night.
Facing McMinn County in their District 5-AAA opener, the Bearettes put the loss of one of their top players behind them to claim their 27th straight victory over the Tribe, posting a 56-31 outcome.
“We’ve now lost five of our top six players (four to graduation) from last year, but we’ve still got the best one (2017 Ms. Tennessee Basketball runner-up Rhyne Howard) and plenty of young talent around her,” remarked head coach Jason Reuter concerning the departure of junior guard Kimia Carter, who was leading the team in scoring so far this season.
“The old sports adage is 'Next man up,' or in this case, 'Next girl up.' We’re going to concentrate on the girls we have here.”
Carter, who averaged 14.2 points in the first five games this season, has withdrawn from Bradley and is in the process of transferring to a school in Chattanooga.
“This (Carter leaving) was a decision her family made,” the Bearette coach related.
Meanwhile, the Bradley boys proved to be their own worst enemies in a 57-53 defeat, their first to the Tribe since Dec. 29, 2012, when they dropped an overtime contest to McMinn in the Maryville Christmas Tournament.
“If you don’t make your free throws, continually turn the ball over and get outrebounded, you don’t win,” declared Bear head coach Chuck Clark.
“They (McMinn) were more aggressive from the start and set the tempo. We had 11 turnovers in the first half. We got into a situation where we had to foul toward the end and they made their free throws (13-of-16 in fourth period).”
The Bears were minus freshman standout Tray Curry, who was out due to an illness, plus sophomore starter Saylor Clark played while also under the weather.
Both Bradley teams will now prepare to play in the first Chick-fil-A East/West Classic this weekend.
Both teams will travel to East Hamilton Friday with the Bears (2-3) taking on Bolton (3-0) at 4:30 before the Bearettes (6-0) tangle with 2017 state semifinalist Houston (5-0) at 6.
The action will turn to Jim Smiddy Arena for a half dozen games Saturday, including the Bradley girls facing Arlington (3-3) at 6, while the boys will tangle with Oakhaven (1-1) at 7:30 in the nightcap.
LADY CHEROKEES 31
Of the 241 times the Bradley girls have played McMinn, Tuesday night's win was their 205th and 27th in a row, dating back to February 2007.
In a battle of unbeaten teams, the Bearettes built a 23-6 advantage, not allowing the girls from Athens to find the bottom of the net on a field goal until there were only 160 seconds left in the opening half.
Although the Lady Cherokees (4-1, 1-1 District 5-AAA) were able to sink a trio of shots from the field and a free throw in the final 2:40, a late 3-pointer by freshman Jamaryn Blair kept Bradley with a comfortable 26-13 advantage at the intermission.
After the break, the hosts stretched the lead with 14 of the first 16 third period points, including a long-range bomb and an old fashioned three-point play by junior Kaleigh Hughes.
After going up by 25 points, Bradley went cold, with just a single free throw in a six-minute span as the visitors chipped away to close the gap to 41-28 with the second bucket of the final frame.
“We had a little lull there where we took our foot off the gas, for some reason,” remarked Coach Reuter.
Senior Howard snapped the Bearettes back to life with four straight buckets, including back-to-back steals and quick baskets, sending the lead back over the 20-point mark.
The Kentucky signee finished the night with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, plus she copped seven steals and dished out a trio of assists.
Hughes added a career-high 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, plus 4-for-5 at the charity stripe.
“Kaleigh had her best game of the year,” praised Coach Reuter.
Six-foot-one sophomore Anna Walker continued her strong play with seven points and five caroms, while junior Anna Roberts added a half dozen markers and three ricochets.
Junior Hannah Lombard cleaned the glass for seven boards.
Six-foot sophomore Alexis Barnes netted five points and snagged four rebounds, while the 5-foot-4 Blair outjumped taller players for four caroms herself to go with her four points.
Bradley won the battle of the boards by a 39-23 margin, plus swiped a dozen steals on 20 Lady Cherokee turnovers.
“We didn’t shoot well on 3-pointers, only 3-of-21, but we made better than 50 percent of our 2s (17-of-33),” Reuter related. “Overall I’d give us a 'C' grade tonight.”
CHEROKEES 57, BEARS 53
After the teams evenly exchanged the opening 16 points of the boys’ contest, McMinn (2-5, 2-0) slowly began to inch ahead, leading 17-14 at the first horn.
The teams combined for just 15 points in the second frame, with the Cherokees taking a 26-20 edge into the locker rooms at the half.
McMinn pushed its advantage to a dozen points twice in the third quarter, but a 3-ball from the corner by sophomore Ashton Boyd and back-to-back big buckets by junior Tyler Ferguson sparked a Bear comeback.
Ferguson made a steal and drove for a hoop and some harm on a fast break, but when his foul shot bounced out, he grabbed the rebound and stuck it back in for a four-point swing in less than 10 seconds.
“We got down by 12 and Tyler came alive and ignited us,” praised Coach Clark. “We showed a lot of heart.”
The Bears were able to trim the deficit to just two points twice early in the fourth quarter, but never could get over the hump.
Trailing 48-42 with 3:30 left on the clock, the Bears had to foul to try to get back into the contest, but the Tribe snapped their 11-game losing streak to Bradley at the free-throw line.
Ferguson had his best varsity game with a team-high 16 points, seven rebounds and a trio of steals.
Senior transfer Taye Cobb added his best game as a Bear with 12 points, seven caroms, a pair of assists and two thefts.
Senior Lameric Tucker, a UTC football commit, collected 11 markers, four helps, three ricochets, a pair of steals and a block.
McMinn County;3;10;10;8 — 31
Bradley Central;15;24;24;13 — 56
LADY?CHEROKEES (31) — Hicks 7, Manny 6, Green 6, Hennessee 6, Gleaton 3, Baxter 2, Burns 1, Liner, Anna McKendree 10, White 6, Horton 3, Shirley 2, Wilson 2, Stasierowski 2, Johnson, Passmore, Strickland.
BEARETTES (56) — Rhyne Howard 18, Kaleigh Hughes 11, Walker 7, Roberts 6, Barnes 5, Mayo 3, Blair 4, Lombard 2, Williams, Reuter, Hullender.
3-POINTERS: MC 2 (Hicks, Hennessee): BC 3 (Howard, Hughes, Blair).
FREE?THROWS: MC 11-of-22: BC 11-of-13.
RECORDS: McMinn County 4-1, 1-1 District 5-AAA: Bradley Central 6-0, 1-0 District 5-AAA.
McMinn County;17;9;13;18 — 57
Bradley Central;14;6;14;19 — 53
CHEROKEES (57) — Matt Eaton 20, Tauren Jones 15, Landon Wilson 12, Elkins 4, Hammonds 3, Hicks 2, Evans, Buckner.
BEARS (53) — Tyler Ferguson 16, Taye Cobb 12, Tucker 11, Clark 4, Elrod 4, Rothwell 3, Boyd 3, Wesley.
3-POINTERS: MC 3 (Jones 2, Hammonds): BC 2 (Tucker, Boyd).
FREE?THROWS: MC 14-of-19: BC 7-of-14.
RECORDS: McMinn County 2-5, 2-0 District 5-AAA: Bradley Central 2-3, 0-1 District 5-AAA.
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