ATHENS, Tenn. — The next time Bradley Central girls' basketball coach Jason Reuter has a whim, he should respond accordingly, much like he did Tuesday night.
The third-year Bearettes coach switched to a 2-3 zone defense in the third quarter of his team's District 5-AAA game against McMinn County on Tuesday, and the Lady Cherokees were held to 15 second-half points. In that same span, the Bearettes scored 38 -- nearly McMinn's total output -- and clinched at least a share of their second consecutive district crown with a 65-39 win.
The 10-day break between games only slightly slowed the state's No. 4 team in Class AAA, as the Bearettes recorded 21 assists -- 14 in the second half, when they capitalized on a bevy of run-outs for easy layups against the McMinn pressure. Kayla Withrow led with six assists to go along with 11 points, while Rebecca Reuter and Brandi Whitted each had five helpers.
Brooke Copeland led the team with 20 points despite missing the final 11:27 of the first half with two fouls.
"Give McMinn credit: They tried to rattle us some with their full-court pressure, but we made a few adjustments at halftime," Coach Reuter said.
The defensive change paid dividends as the Bearettes went on a 34-2 run after a 3-pointer by Keke Smith with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
"If you're going to switch to a zone, you have to have the lead, but we found something that worked," Reuter said. "We shot 67 percent from 2 [-point range] in the second half, and we had sharper, crisper passing.
"I'm proud of the girls for making adjustments."
McMinn (14-6, 7-3) got all of its offense from four players: Keke Smith and Rachel Burke had 11 points each, while Haley Ward added 10. Alisa Guardiola had seven points for the Lady Cherokees.
"Their zone stopped our penetration," McMinn coach Tim McPhail said. "Anybody who has scouted us this year knows that we penetrate and kick, but they slowed our offense down and we had to rely on our outside shot, which wasn't falling.
"Give Bradley credit. They're not the No. 4 team in the state for nothing. I told the girls that we were going to have to have our 'A' game tonight, but we only had it for about 22 or 23 minutes."