By JOE CANNON
After an evenly fought first 10 minutes, Walker Valley began to pull away Friday evening and were able do something they hadn’t done in nearly eight years — beat Bradley Central on the Bears' …
After an evenly fought first 10 minutes, Walker Valley began to pull away Friday evening and were able do something they hadn’t done in nearly eight years — beat Bradley Central on the Bears' home court.
“We did a good job defensively. I’m proud of the way we fought for all four quarters,” declared Mustang head coach Bob Williams after the 51-34 win, their first at Jim Smiddy Arena since Jan. 15, 2010.
“We had a rough first half of the season (just three wins in the first dozen games), but we learned a lot,” stated the veteran mentor who’s Herd has won three of their four games since the start of the new year.
Now 6-10 on the season and 3-3 in District 5-AAA play, the Mustangs will play host to Soddy-Daisy (5-11, 1-5) Tuesday before having to go to the Raider Arena Friday to face fourth-ranked Cleveland (13-2, 6-0).
“Hopefully we are making the turn toward getting ready for a good run to the district tournament,” Coach Williams commented. “I’m glad we get to host it this year (Feb. 14-20 at ‘The Stable’).”
The Bears (7-10, 2-4) will step out of league to face a tough Cookeville (18-4) team, which brings a 13-game winning streak into town Tuesday.
Bradley will return to 5-AAA play Friday with a short trip to Athens to take on McMinn County (5-11, 3-3).
This past Friday, the lead changed hands three times in the first nine points before the Bears pushed ahead with a 3-pointer from freshman Mason Rothwell and an offensive rebound put back by sophomore Saylor Clark.
Walker Valley fought back with “freebies” by senior Kolten Gibson and junior Dustin Bunton before senior Zeke Westfield evened the score just before the first horn by cleaning up a Mustang miss and cashing it in.
After a Bunton drive and a pair of free throws by Bear junior Tyler Ferguson to open the second frame, the Herd galloped to a 10-2 streak, highlighted by NBA-range bombs by Gibson and junior Jordan Munck.
Bradley was able to trim the deficit to just five points (23-18) at the half when senior Jared Elrod drained the first of his two 3-pointers on the night with 17 ticks on the clock.
The Stallions bolted out the second half gate, scoring 10 of the first 11 points to push the difference to double digits.
The Bears were able to close the gap slightly from 14 to 10 points before Gibson drove the lane for a basket just before the third period buzzer blared.
An 8-2 gallop to start the final frame put the Mustangs out of reach as the boys from the north end of the county coasted to the 17-point victory.
Gibson hit half of his shots (14 from the field and eight at the foul line) on his way to a 20-point, eight-rebound, five-assist stat line.
“Gibson started out slow, but heated up,” assessed Coach Williams.
Munck helped out with 10 markers, including 2-for-3 from distance, and cleared five caroms.
“Munck is such a fierce competitor in practice and in games,” the Mustang mentor praised.
Bunton netted eight points and dished a trio of helps, while Westfield scored four, plus pulled down a half dozen boards.
Senior Nate Cooper helped out the winning effort with five points and four ricochets.
Although it made just 5-of-16 (31 percent) shots from beyond the arc, Walker Valley sizzled the nylon at a 67 percent rate (12-for-18) from close in.
The Mustangs did struggle at the free throw line, making just 13-of-23 (57 percent).
Bradley sank 71 percent (10-for-14) from the charity stripe, but made just 4-of-18 (22 percent) from beyond the 19-foot mark and went 6-for-19 (32 percent) in front of it.
Rothwell topped the Bears with nine points, including going 4-for-4 at the stripe, seven rebounds and a pair of assists.
Elrod drilled 2-of-3 long-range bombs on his way to eight points and snatched a trio of boards.
Senior Lameric Tucker helped out with five points, four thefts and a pair of helps.
Clark collected four points, five ricochets, a steal and an assist.
Junior Tyler Ferguson posted five points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked a shot for the hosts.
“We didn’t play very smart tonight,” lamented Bradley head coach Chuck Clark. “We played lazy. It’s very disappointing.
“We were in this game at the half, but then we didn’t finish well.”
Walker Valley;9;14;16;12 — 51
Bradley Central;9;9;9;7 — 34
MUSTANGS (51) — Kolten Gibson 20, Jordan Munck 10, Dustin Bunton 8, Cooper 5, Westfield 4, Davis 2, Wallace 2, Valenzuela, Belau, Campbell.
BEARS (34) — Mason Rothwell 9, Jared Elrod 8, Ferguson 5, Tucker 5, Clark 4, Cobb 3, Boyd, Wesley, Creasman, Walker, Greene, Rathbun.
3-POINTERS: WV 5 (Munck 2, Gibson 2, Cooper): BC 4 (Elrod 2, Tucker, Rothwell).
FREE THROWS: WV 13-of-23: BC 10-of-14.
RECORDS: Walker Valley 6-10, 3-3 District 5-AAA: Bradley Central 7-10, 2-4 District 5-AAA.
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