Bradley Central Bearettes guards take center stage for region

Bradley Central Bearettes guards take center stage for region

February 22nd, 2013 by Gene Henley in Sports - Preps

Bradley Central's Brandi Whitted shoots against Cleveland's Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad in the District 5-AAA girls' championship game at the Cleveland High gym.

Photo by Robin Rudd/Times Free Press.

REGION BASKETBALL SCHEDULE TONIGHT

Region 3-A girls' tournament:

Whitwell at Grace Academy, 6 (boys 7:30)

Arts & Sciences at Sale Creek, 7

Richard Hardy at Silverdale Baptist Academy, 7

Boyd-Buchanan at Van Buren County, 8

Region 3-AA girls' tournament:

Brainerd at McMinn Central, 6

(Tyner boys at McMinn Central, 7:30)

Polk County at East Hamilton, 7

Meigs County at Howard, 7

Tyner at Sequoyah, 7

Region 4-AA girls' tournament:

York Institute at Notre Dame, 7

Upperman at Bledsoe County, 8

Grundy County at Livingston Academy, 8

Chattanooga Christian at Cannon County, 8

Region 3-AAA girls' tournament:

Cumberland County at Bradley Central, 7

White County at Cleveland, 7

McMinn County at Coffee County, 8

Walker Valley at Cookeville, 8

Heading into the Region 3-AAA tournament, the Bradley Central girls' basketball players will have to succeed more on their decision-making and shooting and less on their size.

That means the Bearettes guards will step into the spotlight.

With a pair of future NCAA Division I post players patrolling the paint, senior wings Kayla Withrow and Brandi Whitted and junior point guard Whitney Donaldson have the task of limiting turnovers and hitting open shots. Their success is integral to the team's success, and the Bearettes enter their region quarterfinal tonight against Cumberland County as slight favorites to three-peat as champions.

Region quarterfinal games will be hosted by district champions and runners-up. The tournaments will move to central locations for the semifinals Monday.

With Bradley juniors Brooke Copeland and Rebecca Reuter both over 6-foot-tall and skilled, the game plan for the guards seems simple: Get the ball inside. Be ready to hit shots when the two bigs are double-teamed. Don't turn the ball over.

"We're not going to change our philosophy on who gets the most looks," Bearettes coach Jason Reuter said. "Keep in mind, though, I'm pretty sure what I'm going to get out of [the posts]. How we play is going to come down to guard play on most nights."

All three perimeter players are asked to provide ball-handling, with Donaldson the primary handler. At times, it's been a mismatch unit, yet some of that stems from adjustments to new roles. Donaldson transferred from Morristown West after last season. Whitted is in her first season starting, while Withrow has started at least one game in all four seasons of her career.

"It's a lot different but a lot better this season, because I'm playing and not sitting on the bench," Whitted said. "The only pressure we have in games is the pressure we put on ourselves. We've got each other's back regardless."

Bradley assistant coach Kyle Copeland, who instructs the guards, applauds their efforts yet says there's "room for improvement."

"Our guards have played good enough for us to be 26-2," Coach Copeland said. "They're a big reason we are where we are.

"We put a lot of pressure on the point-guard position. There really isn't pressure on Kayla and Brandi. We just ask them to shoot the ball with confidence, drive and look for their shot when it's available."

Withrow acknowledged that -- and the delight of working with such quality posts.

"We have to be ready to knock down shots," she said. "It's amazing to have a pair of players like that to play with. They're good teammates, and we know if we can knock shots down, the posts are good in getting the ball to us. It gives us confidence because if we give the ball to them, they'll return the favor."

The Bearettes' goals haven't changed from the beginning of the season. Having 14 wins against district competition, plus sweeping White County and Cookeville, has them as the prohibitive favorite to advance to the sectional round. But the players know they have three tough games before they can think about that.

"Our goal is to go to state," Donaldson said. "We don't want to let Coach [Reuter] down, and we're not going to give up easy, regardless of what happens the rest of the way."