published Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Bradley Central girls overcome slow start, top McMinn County

BRADLEY CENTRAL 72, McMINN COUNTY 51

McMinn County 10 12 12 17 -- 51

Bradley Central 14 19 21 18 -- 72

McMinn County (51) -- Alisa Guardiola 13, Burke 4, Keke Smith 11, Dispensa 4, Haylay Ward 19, Thompson, Kelley, Lockmiller.

Bradley Central (72) -- Rebecca Reuter 12, Witted 4, Brooke Copeland 25, Whitney Donaldson 11, Kayla Withrow 12, Carroll 2, Davis, Thompson, Hill 5, Delana, Pippenger.

3-point goals: McMinn 7 (Ward 4, Smith 3); Bradley 7 (Withrow 4, Copeland, Donaldson, Hill). Records: Bradley Central 27-2; McMinn County 20-9.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — After stumbling at the start, the Bradley Central girls' basketball team hit its stride late in the first quarter Monday night and continued pulling away from McMinn County.

Bradley's Bearettes trailed throughout the first four minutes of the game but used a huge rally to end the opening quarter and kept pouring it on to claim a 72-51 victory in the Region 3-AAA semifinals at Cleveland High School. Bradley Central, which owns six straight wins over McMinn County in elimination games since 1994, will take on White County in Wednesday's region championship game, also at Cleveland High.

White County, which beat Cookeville on Monday, has lost twice by double digits this season to Bradley (27-2). Both finalists are assured of sectional games Saturday.

The Bearettes struggled early as turnovers and McMinn County guard Keke Smith made things tough. Smith made two 3-pointers and had an assist in the first three minutes as the Lady Cherokees scored the game's first five points and led 10-2 midway through the first quarter.

"We wanted to get off to a quick start, but that didn't happen," Bearettes coach Jason Reuter said. "I don't remember us being down that much to start a game all year, but it wasn't time to panic. We just had to get focused, take care of the ball and play the way we're capable.

"Once we got our transition game going, our five were faster than their five, so it was just a matter time. That really got us going."

The Bearettes went on a 12-0 scoring run to end the first quarter, taking a 14-10 lead. Then after McMinn countered with two quick baskets to open the second, Bradley broke the tie with a 13-0 spurt and never led by fewer than 11 the rest of the way.

"We're just really excited to have another chance to win the region and possibly host a sub-state game," said junior post Brooke Copeland, who led four Bearettes double-digit scorers with 25 points. "We've worked so hard, every single day since the offseason, to get this chance. I can't stress enough how excited we are to have this chance."

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 23 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including nine in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation at the Associated ...

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