“We played a great first half and had a chance to put them away but instead we only outplayed them by three points in the second half,” assessed Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter after watching his Bearettes post a 61-36 victory over Ooltewah to earn a region tournament berth.
“I know it sounds crazy to complain about a 25-point win but what bothers me is that instead of putting them away we let down and didn’t play championship ball,” he bemoaned. “When you get to the tournaments you can’t afford to ease up.”
The Bearettes had defeated the Lady Owls by 45 and 44 points in the two regular season meetings.
“We’ve got to learn to control the game all the way through,” Reuter concluded. “The first half we played as good as we can play but then in the second half we let them (Ooltewah) play with us.”
The victory advances second-seeded Bradley (22-5) into the District 5-AAA semifinals Saturday at Rhea County. The Bearettes will face third-seeded McMinn County (12-16), which defeated Soddy-Daisy 67-50 in Wednesday’s opening round.
Bradley and McMinn County will tip off at 3:30 Saturday afternoon with a berth in the district championship game on the line. The Bearettes defeated the Lady Cherokees by 31 and 26 points during the regular season.
“We won’t overlook McMinn,” Coach Reuter declared. “They are a much improved team and playing them on a neutral floor will be tough. We’ve got to show up and play the entire game or we’ll be in trouble.”
After a 50-33 victory over Rhea County Wednesday evening, fourth-seeded Cleveland (13-11) earned the right to face top-seeded Walker Valley (23-1) in Saturday’s other semifinal. After falling by 38 points in their first meeting this season, the Lady Raiders gave the third-ranked Lady Mustangs all they wanted in a three-point contest the last time they met.
The District 5-AAA Boys’ tournament gets under way this evening with second-seeded Bradley (19-6) hosting Soddy-Daisy (3-22), Walker Valley (5-18) traveling to third-seeded Ooltewah (20-7) and No. 4 seed McMinn County (16-9) entertaining Rhea County (10-16).
Tonight’s winners will join top-seeded Cleveland (16-7) for Saturday’s semifinals, as well as next week’s Region 3-AAA Tournament.
After Ooltewah’s girls scored the first basket of Wednesday night’s district tournament opener Bradley scored 20 of the game’s next 21 points with half of the scores coming off steals which led to fast breaks.
The second frame was much of the same with the Lady Owls getting a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer in the opening minute before the home team went on a 16-3 run.
Ooltewah’s Kierra Delaney drilled a 3-pointer with 25 seconds to go in the first half to cut the lead to 36-14 at the intermission.
Bradley hit 15-of-19 shots from the two-point area in the first 16 minutes, plus copped 13 steals and handed out 11 assists.
The Bearettes stretched their lead from 22 points at the half to 28 going into the final frame but then scored just nine points in the final eight minutes.
Although the girls in Black and Gold made just 1-of-9 from behind the 19-foot arc, they shot 65 percent (25-of-38) from inside it.
Four Bearettes scored in double figures with junior Caroline Smith leading the way with 13, while classmates Monica Hammond and Kayla Beavers, plus freshman Brooke Copeland, netting 10 points apiece.
Copeland also grabbed seven rebounds, handed off a half dozen helps and swiped five steals. Hammond pulled down five caroms, handed off a pair of assists and copped a couple of steals, while Beavers dished off four helps and swiped a pair of thefts.
Freshman Rebecca Reuter, Copeland and Hammond each blocked a pair of shots in the victory. Junior point guard Keila Formont helped out with four steals and a pair of assists.
Sophomore Kayla Withrow went 5-for-6 at the charity line and hit the only Bearette 3-pointer on the night for eight points.
Ooltewah was led by Michelle Bradley with nine points, while 6-foot-1 freshman Leondra Barrett netted eight points and cleaned the glass for 10 rebounds.
The Lady Owls made just 11-of-43 shots from the field, but five of them came from beyond the 3-point mark. Ooltewah turned the ball over 32 times in the contest compared to 19 for the Bearettes. The teams were close in the battle of the boards with the home team taking a slim 26-25 margin.
The victory marked Bradley’s 20th straight win over the Lady Owls since the 1992-93 season. Ooltewah ends its season with a 10-20 record.
BEARETTES 61, LADY OWLS 36
Ooltewah 3 11 10 12 — 36
Bradley Central 20 16 16 9 — 61
Lady Owls (36) — Bradley 9, Barrett 8, Delaney 7, Alvey 6, Lemon 6, Mavity, Baird, Oshea.
Bearettes (61) — Caroline Smith 13, Monica Hammond 10, Kayla Beavers 10, Brooke Copeland 10, Withrow 8, Reuter 4, McCracken 4, Formont 2, Carroll, Whitted, Atkins, Hubbard.
3-point goals: Ooltewah 5 (Lemon 2, Alvey 2, Delaney); Bradley 1 (Withrow).
Free Throws: Ooltewah 9-of-20; Bradley 8-of-12.
Records: Ooltewah 10-20; Bradley Central 22-5.