Unfortunately for the home team, the title trophy is heading to Lebanon for the third time after the unbeaten Lady Wildcats sealed a 73-67 victory by hitting 12-of-15 shots from the field in the final two periods.
“We ran into a buzz saw there in the second half,” remarked new Bradley head coach Jason Reuter. “They (Wilson) shot well all night but in the second half they didn’t miss.”
“Our girls played hard all weekend. We fought back from double digits (at the end of the third period) and had a chance to take the lead there toward the end, but they (Wilson) didn’t give us a chance,” he added. “Like they did against McMinn Central, our girls showed they are not going to quit.”
“I’m glad we caught Bradley early, because they are going to just get better,” commented longtime Wilson Central coach Bud Brandon, whose team is considered one of the top five squads in middle Tennessee this season.
Now 2-2 on the season, Bradley will get ready to entertain defending District 6-AAA champion Cookeville Tuesday before squaring off with reigning 5-AAA champ and pre-season favorite Walker Valley Friday.
In Sunday’s title tilt, the lead changed hands eight times and was tied four other times in the opening eight-minute period, which saw Wilson Central (4-0) hold a slim 18-17 advantage at the first break.
The teams continued to trade buckets in the second frame until a pair of Rebecca Reuter free throws tied the game at 29-all with three and a half minutes to go in the half.
Junior Monica Hammond gave the Bearettes its first lead in the second quarter with two more charity tosses a moment later.
It appeared the teams would go into the locker room even, but Heather Hall drilled one of her three long-range bombs on the night just before the buzzer sounded, putting the Lady Wildcats up 38-35.
The two teams each shot 10 free throws in the opening 16 minutes with Wilson Central hitting all of its chances, while Bradley drained 9-of-10. The teams also turned the ball over just four times each in the opening half.
The first four minutes of the second half was a continuation of the opening half, but the Lady Wildcats stretched their advantage during the final minutes of the frame and when Hall drained another buzzer beater the lead went to double digits for the only time of the evening.
The 10-point advantage was short lived as Bearette Brooke Copeland converted a quick three-point play to open the final period.
After Leshia Hassell dropped in a basket for the visitors, Bradley junior Keila Formont drove the lane for the hoop and the harm to trim the deficit to six points with less than a minute gone in the frame.
The Bearette all-tournament teammates closed the gap to two points a few minutes later when Formont drilled a 3-pointer and Copeland drew a foul while putting back in an offensive rebound then sank the freebie.
Although Bradley turned the ball over just 10 times in the contest, two costly ones came in the final 90 seconds and combined with Wilson Central sinking 8-of-10 free throws during that same stretched sealed the title for the Lady Wildcats.
Wilson Central, which had deafeted Brainerd and Siegel to get to the final, hit 17-of-27 shots from in front of the arc and 7-of-15 from beyond it, plus added 18-for-23 from the charity stripe for the title.
All-tournament team members Sydney Vanlandingham and Taylor Peterson led the way for the Lady Wildcats with 26 and 18 points respectively, including each draining a pair of 3s. Hall finished with 11 points.
Copeland broke the 20-point mark in just her fourth high school varsity game, netting 21, including her first three bombs from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-1 freshman also pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.
Junior Emily McCracken pumped in a pair of long-range shots on her way to a career-high 17 points, plus she handed out a trio of assists and grabbed three boards.
Formont netted a dozen points, dished off four assists and blocked a shot, while Reuter collected a half dozen points and caroms.
The Bearettes drilled 9-of-23 3-pointers to go along with 13-of-36 shooting from in front of the arc and 12-for-14 at the charity stripe. Bradley won the battle of the boards by a 23-20 margin, while both teams turned the ball over 10 times.
Wilson Central 18 20 19 16 — 73
Bradley Central 17 18 12 20 — 67
Lady Wildcats (73) — Sydney Vanlandingham 26, Taylor Peterson 18, Heather Hall 11, Comer 8, Hassell 7, Alley 2, Thomason 1
Bearettes (67) — Brooke Copeland 21, Emily McCracken 17, Keila Formont 12, Reuter 6, Beavers 5, Withrow 4, Hammond 2, Rymer.
3-pointers: Wilson Central 7 (Hall 3, Vanlandingham 2, Peterson 2); Bradley 9 (Copeland 3, McCracken 2, Formont 2, Beavers, Withrow).
Free Throws: Wilson Central 18-of-23; Bradley Central 12-of-14.
Records: Wilson Central 4-0; Bradley Central 2-2.