CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Game in and game out, the Bradley Central girls' basketball team tries to jump out to a fast start on its opponents. Tuesday night, the Bearettes -- namely Caroline Smith -- did just that.
Smith had 19 of her career-high 27 points in the first 16 minutes against her former school, and the Bearettes built a 32-point halftime lead on their way to a 66-44 District 5-AAA victory over the Lady Raiders at Jim Smiddy Arena.
Brooke Copeland added 23 points, 10 rebounds and six steals for the Bearettes (10-1, 3-0).
"I didn't even know. I was just out there playing," Smith said. "It's a good feeling to have such a good game."
Bradley scored the first nine points and built a 20-point lead before the end of the first quarter. That lead reached 32 on a 3-pointer by Kayla Beavers with 1:08 to go in the second quarter, and the Bearettes briefly reached the "mercy rule" plateau in the third quarter.
The Lady Raiders then started attacking for baskets, which did not please Bradley coach Jason Reuter.
Cleveland outscored Bradley 30-20 in the second half but hurt itself by making only 11 of 26 free throws, including the front ends of one-and-ones. The Bearettes finished 20-for-25.
"It's kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," he said. "It's been a trend for us to build a big lead and let down a little bit. The girls felt they needed to make a statement, but we know that Cleveland is going to get better as the season goes along. They have a new coach, and they showed their youth at times, but they're not as bad as they showed tonight.
"It's always an advantage to play at home."
Norah Berry finished with 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Cleveland (5-4, 2-2), while Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad had 10 points and seven rebounds. The Lady Raiders played without sophomore Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad, while Bradley is still missing sophomore Rebecca Reuter.
"They were missing a player and we were, too," Coach Reuter said. "We'll see them again, and it'll be different."