Facing Murfreesboro Riverdale, the No. 11 team in the nation, the Bearettes went toe-to-toe with the two-time defending state champion and were within three points in the final 40 seconds before the Lady Warriors sealed their 61st straight victory at the free-throw line.
“I knew if we played well we had a chance. It was a game of matchups, we had the better post players and dominated inside, but they (Riverside) had the better guard play,” declared Bradley head coach Jason Reuter after the 69-62 outcome. “We hope to play them again (in the state tournament).”
Meanwhile the Bears gave longtime assistant coach Chuck Clark the first victory of his head coaching career with a 59-52 win over the athletic Warriors.
“I’m glad to get this first win out of the way,” remarked coach Clark. “I’m proud of the way our guys hustled and were doing the little things — taking charges, getting deflections, getting on the floor after loose balls, battling for rebounds.”
Both Bradley teams will return to the Jim Smiddy Arena hardwood Friday evening to take on the tall trees from Hamilton Heights.
Despite both teams sporting a pair of quality NCAA DI signees, the Bearettes (1-1) never led Tuesday evening as eight turnovers and just 2-of-11 shooting in the opening period found them on the short end of a 16-9 tally at the first buzzer.
“Once we got the first seven minutes of the game out of the way our turnovers went down and we started to play a lot better,” coach Reuter commented as the teams both scored 53 points in the final three frames.
After Riverdale (3-0) pushed its advantage to a dozen points early in the second quarter, the hosts used an 8-2 run later in the period to pull within four points on a Brooke Copeland putback with 15 ticks on the clock. The University of Florida signee netted 16 of her game-high 30 points, plus pulled down 10 in the opening half.
University of Tennessee signee Alexa Middleton was also able to put an offensive rebound back in as the halftime horn sounded, to push the visitors back up by a 34-28 margin.
Copeland opened the second half with a 3-pointer to pull the hosts within three points, but the teams seesawed baskets throughout the rest of the frame with the visitors pulling ahead 53-45 at the break.
When Clemson signee Shelbie Davenport drained nine of the first 10 Lady Warrior points in the final period, the difference stretched to its highest point of 15.
The Bearettes responded to the threat with an 11-0 run to pull back within four points of the lead, before Middleton drained a 3-pointer to stem the tide.
Middle Tennessee State signee Rebecca Reuter gave the home fans hope when she drilled a 3-ball from the wing with 40 seconds to go in the contest, to pull the Black-and-Gold within three points once again, but Riverdale sealed the victory at the free-throw line, going 4-for-4 in the final 25 seconds.
“I’m proud of the way our girls stayed with it. A lot of teams would have folded when they got down by 15 in the final quarter, but we fought back,” praised coach Reuter. “We were playing with two freshmen and a sophomore on the floor at times, plus we are without our top point guard (Chelsie Summars).”
Copeland, who plays summer AAU ball with some of the Riverdale players, not only had the hot hand for 30 points, she also dominated the glass with 18 rebounds, copped three steals, handed out a trio of assists and blocked three shots.
Reuter helped out with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks. Davis finished with eight points, three helps and a pair of thefts, while sophomore Julia Gaither collected four caroms and two steals in the contest. Senior Mady Stallings, who is filling in at point guard in Summars’ absence, dished out five assists.
Davenport and Middleton topped the Riverdale effort with 22 and 20 points respectively.
Bradley won the battle of the boards by a 41-27 margin, but uncharacteristically turned the ball over 20 times.
BEARS 59, WARRIORS 52
After eight lead changes in the opening half, Bradley (1-1) trailed by a point at the first horn, but led by three at the intermission.
The Bears held Riverdale (2-1) to just two made baskets during the third frame while stretching their advantage to nine going into the final frame.
When senior Logan Cox and sophomore Bradley McCurdy drained back-to-back 3-pointers, the deficit swelled to 13 points with three minutes to go. The Warriors tried to avoid their first loss of the season with a 15-6 run, but a Taylor Bentley old-fashioned three-point play with 10 seconds to go secured the Bears first win of the season.
“Bentley has a great first step (on his drives to the basket) and is able to slip past the defenders,” Coach Clark stated. “He and (Logan) Cox had only 10 combined points in the first game (a loss to Cookeville) and we had a talk about how we need more out of them if we are going to be able to compete.”
Bentley and Cox responded with 21 and 11 points respectively, while junior Daniel Clark made his first appearance of the season with 11 points and eight rebounds. Cox finished with five caroms.
McCurdy collected a half dozen points and five rebounds in the victory, while freshman Cole Copeland opened his promising Bear basketball career with eight boards and three points. Junior Ty Morgan helped out with five points.
As a team Bradley pounded the backboard for a 36-26 advantage, plus hit 17-of-30 shots from in front of the 19-foot arc and was 4-for-15 beyond it.
“We gave up our bodies and outrebounded them and we had just 14 turnovers,” praised Coach Clark. “We did a great job of controlling the pace of the game.”
Brad Woodson and 5-foot gunner Steven Wilson led the way for the Warriors with a dozen points apiece.
Riverdale 16 18 19 16 — 69
Bradley Central 9 19 17 17 — 62
LADY WARRIORS (69) — Shelbie Davenport 22, Alexa Middleton 20, Pendergrass 7, Heard 6, Patrick 4, Murry 4, Alley 2, Cantrell, Conyers.
BEARETTES (62) — Brooke Copeland 30, Rebecca Reuter 16, Lyndsy Davis 8, Emma Kate Brown 2, Mady Stallings 2, Katie Brown 2, Julia Gaither 2, Halle Hughes, Kayla Delane.
3-POINTERS: Riverdale 4 (Davenport 2, Pendergrass, Middleton); Bradley 3 (Davis, Copeland, Reuter).
FREE THROWS: Riverdale 15-of-19; Bradley 19-of-26.
RECORDS: Riverdale 3-0; Bradley Central 1-1.
Riverdale 13 15 5 19 — 52
Bradley Central 12 19 11 17 — 59
WARRIORS (52) — Brad Woodson 12, Steven Wilson 12, Duff 9, Campbell 7, Bell 6, Edwards 4, Matthews 2, Barge, Smithson, Bonds.
BEARS (59) —Taylor Bentley 21, Daniel Clark 11, Logan Cox 11, Bradley McCurdy 6, Ty Morgan 5, Cole Copeland 3, Tucker Maroon 2.
3-POINTERS: Riverdale 6 (Woodson 2, Wilson 3, Duff); Bradley 4 (McCurdy 2, Clark, Cox).
FREE THROWS: Riverdale 10-of-14; Bradley 13-of-20.
RECORDS: Riverdale 2-1; Bradley Central 1-1.