CLEVELAND, Tenn. — By now Bradley Central's four junior starters must feel like the Region 3-AAA championship is part of their birthright. The Bearettes have owned the region title all three seasons those girls, as well as the four junior reserves, have been on the varsity high school basketball team.
Wednesday night, thanks in large part to Bradley's two 6-foot-2 junior posts -- Brooke Copeland and Rebecca Reuter -- the program continued its region dominance with a 53-42 victory over White County at Cleveland High School. It was the third double-digit win over the Warriorettes this season and earned third-ranked Bradley Central (29-2) the right to host fourth-ranked Murfreesboro Blackman (26-4) in Saturday's sub-state round. All four of Blackman's losses this year have come to top-ranked Riverdale (31-0), which is ranked No. 2 nationally by MaxPreps and will host White County (21-12).
"We all knew if we didn't win tonight our future wasn't very bright," said Bradley coach Jason Reuter, who has led the program to the region title all three seasons since taking over. "It's a huge advantage to get to host this next round. We thought we had a good shot of advancing last year, but we lost in overtime.
"We've heard the second-best team in the state might be Blackman. They'll get the chance to prove it at our place now."
Copeland scored Bradley's first six points and had 14 of her game-high 29 by halftime. She also grabbed 11 rebounds and was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line, while Rebecca Reuter added 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Bearettes trailed twice late in the first quarter, both times by just one point, before building a nine-point lead in the second. But White County connected on three consecutive 3-pointers in the final two minutes before the half to tie the game before Copeland sank a short jumper just before the halftime buzzer for a two-point advantage.
Bradley continued to hold a slim lead throughout the third, then closed the quarter on an 8-1 run and had a double-digit cushion within the first two minutes of the fourth. The lead never dipped below nine for the final four minutes.
"We came in pretty confident, maybe a little too much since we had already beaten them twice," Copeland said. "They hit some big shots to keep the game close, but we feel really confident that if we get the ball inside, either me or Rebecca can score. So anytime we needed to, we knew we could get points."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has 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. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...