Chelsie Summars has had a long road to recovery. The Bradley Central junior point guard has suffered through a couple of painful ACL tears - in the same knee - during the past 20 months, and there still are questions about whether she'll fully become the player she once was projected to be.
Yet evenings like Monday in the District 5-AAA championship game offer glimmers of hope.
Summars had eight assists to go along with five points, and the Bearettes were able to claim their fourth consecutive district championship with a 62-38 win over McMinn County at East Hamilton. Walker Valley defeated Cleveland 52-44 in the consolation game, and the four teams will move on to the Region 3-AAA tournament Friday.
Brooke Copeland had 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists while Rebecca Reuter had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists for Bradley. The three Bearettes were named to the all-tournament team, while Copeland was voted the district's most valuable player and Reuter made the all-district team.
"There have been a lot of hard times, but I feel myself getting faster and a little more into the game than the day before," Summars said. "My mind is where it needs to be, but my body has to catch up. It's been very frustrating at times because I've never had to deal with it, but with some help from my teammates, family, coaches and God, I've been able to get through it.
"I'm proud of the way we played together tonight. It's not always the prettiest picture, but we did what we had to do to get the win."
The Bearettes started slowly but started to pull away late in the first quarter. They had a 6-0 run over the final 1:31, then built a 10-point lead in the second quarter. That lead was trimmed to five on a score by McMinn's Taloria Robinson, but Bradley ended the half on a long jump shot by Copeland and put the game away with a 10-2 run to start the third quarter.
"McMinn had won eight of their last 10 coming into the game, and they were on a high, but we just had to get back to playing Bearette basketball," Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. "We went to our strengths -- Brooke and Rebecca. I don't know if we shot the ball great, but we didn't have to.
"We're a different team than we were earlier in the year. We're still not perfect, but I'm proud of how this team has matured, and they deserved this championship."
Rachel Simbeck led the Lady Cherokees with 11 points.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.