When the Bradley Central and Soddy-Daisy boys met in mid-January it was a 40-point blowout. When they squared off last week its was a five-point battle to the buzzer.
Thursday night’s District 5-AAA opener at Jim Smiddy Arena had qualities of both previous meetings as the Bears led by just four points at the half before ripping the Trojans by 23 points in the final two periods for a 65-36 runaway.
Coach Kent Smith’s 26th victory in 29 meetings with the boys from northern Hamilton County advances his Bears to Saturday’s district semifinals, plus gives them a spot in next week’s Region 3-AAA Tournament.
“You got to be there (the region) to have a chance to win it,” a very hoarse Smith squeaked out after the victory. “Give Soddy credit, they brought it to us in the first half and they never quit.
“We were able to increase our defensive pressure in the second half and take away their passing lanes,” he added. “We were able to execute our offense better in the second half as well. After just being up by four at the half we played with a sense of urgency in the second half.”
With their 20th win in 26 games this season, second-seeded Bradley will now face No. 3 Ooltewah (21-7) Saturday at 6:30 at Rhea County High School with a spot in the district championship game on the line.
“It’s big boy basketball time now,” Smith proclaimed. “Ooltewah plays a totally different style of basketball. More an up-and-down game that goes along better with what we like to do.”
The two teams split their regular season meetings with the Bears winning by 15 at Jim Smiddy Arena but falling by two at Ooltewah. The Owls advanced to the district semis with a 91-55 blowout of Walker Valley Thursday evening.
After Bradley and Soddy swapped the lead five times in the opening four minutes Thursday evening, the Bears went on a 12-0 run to take a double digit lead after Miles Christian hit a twisting baseline jumper to open the second period.
The Trojans snapped their seven-minute cold spell with a 7-0 run of their own and were able to trim the lead to a single point when Dalton Rodgers hit a rare five-point play. After drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key, he was fouled on the way back down to the floor and was awarded one-plus-one bonus free throws.
He sank both with 1:06 to go before the half, but junior Justin Houston nailed a trey from the wing with 35 seconds remaining to give the Bears a 29-25 lead at the intermission.
With the season hanging in the balance for both teams, the Trojans sank the first basket of the second half and after junior Hunter Chastain completed a three-point play for the Black-and-Gold the visitors closed the gap to three points but that was a close as they would come.
After a timeout at the 4:29 mark of the third period, Bradley took control with nine unanswered points and allowed Soddy just seven points the rest of the game.
After Miles Morgan sank a pair of free throws with 0.2 to go in the third fame the Bears led 44-33 going into the final eight minutes and completely shut the door with a 17-0 run. The only Trojan points of the final period came on a free throw with 65 second left in the game and an offensive rebound putback with 30 ticks left.
Sophomore Bryce Copeland led the Bear attack draining four 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 20 points, plus he copped four steals. “We stepped up the pressure in the second half, got some turnovers and made some buckets,” he expressed after the win.
Chastain helped out with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. “We were able to keep them off the boards in the second half,” he related. “We (Bradley) are taking some big steps forward and maturing. We are getting some good quality wins.”
Despite not having a senior on the roster the Bears are currently riding a seven-game winning streak plus have won 11 of their last 12 games.
Junior James Stovall netted eight points and cleaned the glass for seven rebounds in the victory, while Houston helped out with seven points, a trio of thefts and three assists.
As a team Bradley made 19-of-45 shots from in front of the 19-foot arc and went 6-for-14 beyond it.
The Bears connected on 9-of-11 free throws and turned the ball over just eight times. After pulling down just three first-half rebounds they also won the battle of the boards by a narrow 26-25 margin.
After hitting 8-of-11 two-pointers in the first half, Soddy made just 5-of-19 in the final 16 minutes, plus went just 2-of-6 on 3-point attempts on the night.
The visitors turned the ball over 24 times and made just half of their eight foul shots.
Soddy-Daisy 11 14 8 3 — 36
Bradley Central 19 10 15 21 — 65
Trojans (36) — Zach Brown 11, Dalton Rodgers 10, James Fowkes 10, Floyd 2, Hamilton 2, Hutchens 1, Smith, Linz, Landreth.
Bears (65) — Bryce Copeland 20, Hunter Chastain 16, Stovall 8, Houston 7, Morgan 4, Johnson 4, Christian 2, Cox 2, Thompson 2, Cain, Cruz, Whitmire.
3-pointers: Soddy-Daisy 2 (Rodgers 2); Bradley 6 (Copeland 4, Houston, Stovall).
Free Throws: Soddy-Daisy 4-of-8; Bradley 9-of-11.
Records: Soddy-Daisy 3-23 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 20-6.