It what has become a familiar story for the Black-and-Gold this season, the fifth-ranked Bearettes were hitting on all cylinders in a 65-23 cakewalk, while the Bears overcame yet another obstacle for their largest margin of victory of the season in a 69-29 outcome.
“When Matt (Whitmire) came in in a walking boot Monday I almost sent everybody home just to prevent anybody else from getting hurt,” joked veteran Bradley head coach Kent Smith, who’s team has overcome numerous hurdles this season to post a 15-5 overall record.
Bradley had a trio of players, including a pair of starters, listed as “DND” (did not dress) in the scorebook with Whitmire suffering an ankle injury, senior Darien Johnson out until a ruling from the TSSAA on his participation in a recreation league game and Logan Cox suffering a concussion during the boys’ junior varsity game.
“There were no referees in the ‘rec’ league game Darien played in but they did use a score clock, so we are not going to play him until we are sure there’s not a problem,” explained Smith.
The JV Bears claimed a 41-38 victory, while the Bearettes took the JV girls’ game 47-38 for a clean sweep by the hosts.
Bradley will make the short trip down Interstate 75 Friday night for a District 5-AAA for a little barnstorming at Ooltewah.
The high-pressure Bear defense allowed Walker Valley (6-11, 0-7) to get off just four shots from the field in the first seven minutes Tuesday night while building a 14-3 advantage.
Bradley (15-5, 5-2) continued the build its lead throughout the second quarter, doubling up the visitors 28-14 by the intermission.
“We were able to speed them (Walker Valley) up and get them out of their comfort zone,” declared Smith, who is now 16-6 in his career against the Mustangs. “Everybody knows Darien (Johnson) is our motor on defense, but the other guys have picked up the slack and are really putting on the pressure.”
When Walker Valley was only able to get off two shots in the first three minutes of the second half, a frustrated coach Bob Williams benched his starters.
“We just didn’t compete tonight. We had a good practice (Monday) and thought we had a good game plan,” expressed Williams. “We knew what they (Bradley) were going to do. It’s no secret. We just didn’t execute. We’ve got to do a better job.”
The Bears stretched the difference to 29 points by the close of the third buzzer and forced a running clock early in the final frame as senior Chris Thompson led the Bradley bench with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in a 17-4 run.
The hosts spread the scoring around with four players reaching double figures. Junior Bryce Copeland led the way with 16, including a trio of “treys,” plus he copped five steals and pulled down four rebounds.
Senior Justin Houston helped out with 13 points, a half dozen thefts and five helps, while classmate Miles Morgan netted 10 markers.
Walker Valley had just one player score more than four points as Jackson Brownfield put in eight, plus cleaned the glass for seven rebounds.
The Mustangs won the battle of the boards by a 25-21 margin, but turned the ball over 22 times, including 20 Bear steals.
Walker Valley shot just 28 percent (10-of-36) from the field, while Bradley hit 50 percent from in front (16-of-32) and behind (8-of-16) the 19-foot arc.
The JV Bears had to hold off a late charge by the junior Mustangs who made up an eight-point difference in the final period only to have the hosts seal the victory at the free-throw line.
Taylor Bentley led the victory with 17 points, while Daniel Clark added eight and Baylor Terrell seven.
Logan Mellton topped the visitors with 10 points, with Lukas Korn adding seven. Deerice Anthony and Colton Morrow both netted six.
Lady Mustangs 23
Just like the boys’ game, Bradley jumped on the visitors early and often, not giving up a field goal for the first 5:50 of the contest.
The Bearettes (19-1, 7-0) built a 20-7 lead by the first buzzer before stretching it to 23 points at the half.
Hitting 8-of-11 shots from the field in the third frame, Bradley continued to pull away with a running clock in the final eight minutes.
The 42-point margin of victory was just the third highest for the Bearettes this season as they defeated Rhea County by 68 points and McMinn County by 52 in back-to-back games earlier this month.
“Once again we took care of business,” proclaimed second-year head coach Jason Reuter. “These girls are making me look good. Our defense continues to improve and once again we had a very solid overall effort.
“Our girls continue to play very unselfish ball,” he added. “Walker Valley has a very young team and we are senior heavy, and that showed tonight.”
Sophomore Brooke Copeland once against paced the Bearettes with a double-double, netting 17 points, clearing 14 rebounds, plus blocking five shots.
Lee University signees Caroline Smith and Kayla Beavers pitched in with 13 and 11 points, respectively, while they both grabbed three caroms. Smith handed out three assists and Beavers snatched a trio of steals in the victory.
Sophomore Rebecca Reuter came off the bench for nine points, six rebounds and a block.
Wendi Watson and Lindsey Sotuyo led Walker Valley (6-10, 2-4) with eight points apiece. Senior Jessica Stepp pulled down seven rebounds, while Lyndsey Macon snatched five and Sotuyo four for the Lady Mustangs.
Bradley sank 27-of-56 shots from the field, including eight 3-pointers, plus claimed a 32-20 rebounding advantage.
Walker Valley hit just 14 percent (6-of-43) from the field and turned the ball over 18 times.
A 12-2 run in the second quarter gave the Bradley JV the difference it needed for a nine-point win.
Brandi Whitted pace the victors with 14 points, while Baylee Carroll and Maddie Stallings netted 10 points each.
Abigail Wilson and Victoria Jones topped the Lady Mustangs with 14 points apiece.
Walker Valley 7 3 8 5 — 23
Bradley Central 20 13 24 8 — 65
Lady Mustangs (23) — Wendi Watson 8, Lindsey Sotuyo 8, Stepp 3, Lawhorn 2, Macon 2, Griffith.
Bearettes (65) — Brooke Copeland 17, Caroline Smith 13, Kayla Beavers 11, Reuter 9, Neuharth 7, Formont 5, McCracken 3, Hammond, Carroll, Whitted, Withrow, Davis.
3-pointers: Walker Valley 3 (Watson 2, Stepp); Bradley 8 (Beavers 3, Neuharth 2, Formont, McCracken, Smith).
Free Throws: Walker Valley 8-of-13; Bradley 3-of-6.
Records: Walker Valley 6-10, 2-4 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 19-1, 7-0 District 5-AAA.
Walker Valley 5 9 9 6 — 29
Bradley Central 14 14 23 18 — 69
Mustangs (29) — Jackson Brownfield 8, Korn 4, Harwood 3, Morrow 3, Russell 3, Hunt 2, Swafford 2, Johnson 2, Hysinger 2, Melton, Cartwright, Franklin.
Bears (69) — Bryce Copeland 16, Justin Houston 13, Chris Thompson 10, Miles Morgan 10, Contreras 6, Chastain 6, Christian 5, Bentley 2, Terrell 1, Cain.
3-pointers: Walker Valley 3 (Harwood, Russell, Morrow); Bradley 8 (Copeland 3, Thompson 2, Houston 2, Christian).
Free Throws: Walker Valley 6-of-10; Bradley 11-of-17.
Records: Walker Valley 6-11, 0-6 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 15-5, 5-2 District 5-AAA.