No one was more stunned by Bradley Central’s double-overtime victory over a team that finished in the Final 4 at the state tournament in March than Bear head coach Kent Smith.
“With all we’ve been through these past couple of weeks and to come out and fight through all that adversity to win this is game the way we did was unbelievable,” stated the 16-year veteran head coach after his squad rallied late to force the extra play, then blew out Siegel in the final four minutes for an 82-71 victory with two starters in street clothes and another out with a concussion for the final extra frame.
Bradley’s girls also opened the 2011-12 campaign with a Hall of Fame victory over the Murfreesboro school, but with a less impressive performance in 51-42 outcome.
“That was a pretty ugly. We didn’t execute well on offense. We sure have a lot of loose ends to tie up,” expressed head coach Jason Reuter, who was also minus a couple of key players, but had two others combine for 40 of the Bearettes’ 51 points.
Both Bradley teams will return to Jim Smiddy Arena Saturday evening as Morristown-East comes to town for a couple of Hall of Fame games. The girls will tip off at 5 p.m., with the boys to follow.
After having very high expectations take some hard blows with the loss of standouts Bryce Copeland and James Stovall, plus injuries to starters Hunter Chastain and Miles Christian, Smith wasn’t sure what to expect out of his team.
“We had run a nine-deep rotation throughout the summer camps, so I knew we had some other guys who could play, but I just wasn’t sure how having two of our top guys (Copeland and Stovall) gone was going to affect us,” the coach related. “I’m really proud of the way our other guys fought through the adversity and didn’t lose their composure.”
Copeland, who broke his right forearm in the final football game of the season, is out 8-10 weeks with a couple of plates and a dozen screws in his arm to help the healing process, while Stovall found out Tuesday he needs season-ending shoulder surgery.
With the two on the bench to support their teammates, the Bears battled toe-to-toe with the Stars as the lead changed hands a half dozen times in the opening period, but just once in the second as Bradley went on a 7-1 run to close out the first half with a 36-29 advantage.
The boys from Murfreesboro fought back in the third period to trim the difference to just a bucket by the buzzer and then tied the game with the first basket of the fourth frame.
The game was knotted seven times before a pair of free throws from Bear senior Justin Houston with 17.5 seconds left in regulation forced the game to overtime.
Siegel had a couple of chances to win it before the horn sounded but couldn’t get the ball to fall. The Stars posted a pair of four-point leads in the first extra frame and were on the verge of victory with a 67-65 lead with 5.4 ticks on the clock.
After Smith called timeout, a special play the team had practiced just a few times was set in place. Having to go the length of the floor, the ball was thrown in at midcourt to Matthew Whitmire, who quickly got it to Houston, who utilized his speed to beat a Star defender to the basket for a layup with one second left to send the game to another overtime.
“I think we’ve practiced that play maybe five times,” Smith confessed.
Houston and the Bears continued that momentum in the second four-minute frame, outscoring the visitors 15-4 for the victory. Houston had a steal and a fast-break basket, plus a couple of free throws, a rebound and a trio of assists in the deciding streak. He finished with eight points and 11 assists, with just two turnovers in the contest.
Miles Morgan capped off a career-high night with seven of his 23 points coming in the final OT. He also pulled down nine rebounds in the contest.
Playing with a broken knuckle in his shooting hand, Chastain had a strong outing, pumping in 19 points and pulling down nine boards before leaving the game with a concussion after thumping his head on the floor while trying to take a charge in the first overtime.
Christian, who had missed several practices due to a back injury, put up a career-high 16 points, including three of the four Bear 3-pointers.
Lady Stars 42
Bradley go off 20 shots in the opening period, but made just five as Siegel held a 14-12 advantage at the first buzzer.
The Bearettes bounced back to take a five-point lead into the halftime locker room and stretched it to eight heading into the final period.
With Maddie Denton hitting three of her six 3-pointers in the final frame, Siegel was able to close the gap to four, but Bradley scored eight of the game’s final 10 points to secure the victory.
Senior Caroline Smith and sophomore Brooke Copeland both ripped the chords for 20 points for the Bearettes.
Smith also cleaned the glass for nine caroms, handed out five assists and blocked a pair of shots. Copeland pulled down seven rebounds and blocked five shots.
“Caroline and Brooke played well and really took us on their shoulders,” Reuter praised. “We missed a lot of easy shots. We’ll learn from this and grow. I’m proud we got the win, but other than that it wasn’t pretty.”
The Bearettes were without 6-foot-2 sophomore Rebecca Reuter, who was out with a hamstring pull, and senior transfer Taylor Neuharth, who is still recovering from an ACL tear.
Denton led all scorers with 22 points.
Siegel 14 8 5 15 — 42
Bradley Central 13 14 8 16 — 51
Lady Stars (53) — Maddie Denton 22, Francescon 6, Humphrey 5, Lawson 5, Naish 4, Bush, Roberts, Aavant, Lawson.
Bearettes (51) — Brooke Copeland 20, Caroline Smith 20, Beavers 4, Formont 4, Summars 2, McCracken 1, Hammond, Whitted, Carroll..
3-pointers: Siegel 7 (Denton 6, Humphrey); Bradley 2 (Smith 2).
Free Throws: Siegel 3-of-5; Bradley 7-of-13.
Records: Siegel 0-1; Bradley Central 1-0.
Siegel 18 11 13 17 8 4 — 71
Bradley Central 16 20 8 15 8 15 — 82
Mustangs (71) — Charles Clark 25, Dominique Gooch 17, Treyton Harris 16, D. Clark 4, Burton 4, Miller 3, Brandon 2, Martin, Simpson, Joyner.
Bears (82) — Miiles Morgan 23, Hunter Chastain 19, Miles Christian 16, Whittmire 8, Houston 8, Johnson 6, Bentley 2, Contreras.
3-pointers: Siegel 5 (C.Clark 4, Gooch); Bradley 4 (Christan 3, Johnson).
Free Throws: Siegel 12-of-16; Bradley 20-of-28.
Records: Siegel 0-1; Bradley Central 1-0.