published Friday, March 1st, 2013

Copeland leads Bradley Central Bears to 3-AAA title

  • photo
    Bradley Central's Bryce Copeland (10) is stopped by the Ooltewah's Ben Snider (21).
    Photo by Robin Rudd.
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Ooltewah 15 12 13 16 -- 56

Bradley Central 23 8 15 14 -- 60

Ooltewah (56) -- Antonio Jackson 20, Jacqueze Robinson 19, Ware 6, Snider 4, Maston 7, Bass, King.

Bradley Central (60) -- Daniel Clark 15, Bryce Copeland 15, Cox 7, Bentley 8, Terrell 5, Matthew Whitmire 10.

3-point goals: Ooltewah 6 (Robinson 4, Jackson 2); Bradley 8 (Clark 2, Copeland 2, Bentley 2, Terrell, Cox). Records: Bradley Central 19-12; Ooltewah 20-10.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bryce Copeland probably never held his girlfriend as tightly as he did the Region 3-AAA championship plaque Thursday night.

Bradley Central's senior guard clutched the hardware through five postgame media interviews, glancing down at the prize ever so often just to make sure it was real.

Copeland's leadership and calmness late helped the Bears pull off a 60-56 upset of defending region champion Ooltewah, a team that had beaten Bradley twice during the regular season.

"This is the best feeling in the world," Copeland said after finishing with 15 points, including two 3-pointers and a free throw that put the game out of reach in the final seconds. "This team has come so far since the Christmas break. We've just gotten better and better and have been playing our best here at the right time."

Bradley Central will host sixth-ranked Siegel in Monday's sectional, while Ooltewah must travel to top-ranked Murfreesboro Blackman.

After Ooltewah scored the game's first four points and led for the first four minutes, Bradley began its comeback with four straight 3s, two by Copeland. The Bears then finished the opening quarter on an 11-0 run and built a 10-point cushion midway through the second quarter.

The Owls cut the deficit to one on Ben Snider's layup, but Bradley closed out the half with a trey by Logan Cox and began the second half with another 3 from Taylor Bentley.

Although Bradley led the rest of the game, Ooltewah stayed within striking distance, pulling within one possession five times. But each time the Owls were within one defensive stop of having a chance at regaining the lead, Bradley answered with a score.

"We kept our poise," Bears coach Kent Smith said. "They're a team of runs -- they can get a scoring spurt and take control in a hurry -- but our guys did a great job of matching them bucket for bucket when we needed it."

With Bradley clinging to a three-point lead and 16 seconds remaining, Copeland made the front end of a one-and-one, then deflected a shot at the defensive end to allow time to run out.

"He's our money guy," Smith said. "That's who we wanted at the line in that situation. Bryce has meant so much to our school in both football and basketball. People don't realize how valuable he is to our program. He just does so many things as a leader to put us in position to win games like this."

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 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 seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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