A trio of District 5-AAA girls’ elimination games are on tap this evening, two of which will be played locally, at Bradley Central and Cleveland High.
The second-seeded Bearettes will host Ooltewah, the event’s No. 7 seed, while the fourth-seeded Lady Raiders will battle No. 5 Rhea County in a “do-or-die” contest. Both games will tip off at 7 p.m.
Riding an eight-game winning streak, Bradley (21-5 overall, 10-2 in district play) mauled the Lady Owls (6-19, 1-11) by 45 and 44 points in their two regular season meetings.
Coach Jason Reuter’s first season at the Bearette helm has seen his team win a Florida holiday tournament, come in second in their own annual tournament and record losses only to state-ranked teams.
Ranked 10th in the first Associated Press poll of the season, Bradley’s only losses have come to top-ranked (Class AA) McMinn Central (24-1), third-ranked (AAA) Walker Valley (23-1) and ninth-ranked (AAA) Wilson Central (18-3).
Across town the competition should be a little tighter as Cleveland (12-11, 6-6) stopped the Lady Eagles (11-13, 4-8) twice during the season but the margins of victory were three and 10 points.
With a roster minus any seniors or juniors, Coach Rachel Moore’s team has improved throughout the season, including wins in two of their last three games.
Tonight’s other elimination game will be played in Athens as third-seeded McMinn County (10-14, 7-5) will take on No. 6 Soddy-Daisy (10-15, 2-10).
This evening’s victors not only advance to the District 5-AAA semifinals Saturday at Rhea County High School, but also earn a spot in the Region 3-AAA Tournament next week.
The 5-AAA boys will take the stage Thursday evening with opening round games at Bradley, McMinn County and Ooltewah.
Coach Kent Smith’s second-seeded Bears (19-6, 9-3) will have their hands full with seventh-seeded Soddy-Daisy at Jim Smiddy Arena.
Although the Trojans (3-22, 0-12) have the worst record in the district this season, they went from a 40-point thrashing the first time they met Bradley to a five-point dogfight when the two teams battled last week.
“This isn’t the same Soddy team we played earlier,” Smith said after the near upset. “We can’t afford to take them lightly.”
The shoe will be on the other foot for sixth-seeded Walker Valley (5-18, 2-10) tomorrow night as its travels down Interstate 75 to face Ooltewah (20-7, 9-3), the No. 3 seed.
It has been a long season for Coach Bob Williams’ crew but an upset of a team that defeated them by 27 and 11 points during the regular season could go a long way in giving the Mustang faithful something to cheer about.
The other opening round boys’ game will find Rhea County (10-16, 4-8) traveling across the river to McMinn County (16-9, 8-4).
With the Eagles and Cherokees playing in Athens Thursday, the District 5-AA “play-in” games had to be moved to McMinn Central’s gymnasium.
Meigs County earned the No. 4 seed in both the boys and girls race and will take on fifth-seeded Polk County and Sweetwater respectively.
With their seasons on the line, the Meigs County (13-14, 3-5) and Sweetwater (7-16, 1-7) girls will go first with a 6 p.m. tipoff.
Both the Polk and Meigs boys went 10-17 during the regular season and split their head-to-head games. The Wildcats won by a dozen in Benton while the Tigers took a four-point victory in Decatur.
Thursday’s winners will advance to the 5-AA semifinals Friday evening in Athens.