CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Every time the Bradley Central Bearettes step on the basketball court, there is plenty of motivation for them to keep adding to the program's accomplished history.
Coach Jason Reuter's squad is a terror to face on the hardwood again this season.
In a battle of unbeatens, Tennessee's second-ranked Class 4A Bearettes opened the floodgates early, scoring 47 first-half points on the way to a 74-43 victory over GHSA Class 3A power Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at Jim Smiddy Arena on Saturday night.
The Bearettes (21-0) held a 15-0 advantage in assists to build a 29-point halftime lead. Kimora Fields, a 6-foot freshman forward, displayed her all-around game with eight assists in the first half; many of those went to senior Hannah Jones, who scored a game-high 26 points.
"Kimora just got her first Division I offer from (the University of Tennessee at) Chattanooga this past week, and that will be the first of many more to come," Reuter said. "She has the mentality and that stoic look about her that coaches love to see. She also has the academics and the body to play big-time basketball.
"She has a lot of tools in her pocket. She throws the ball out of the post as good as any player I've had."
Fields picked up her ninth and final assist less than a minute into the third quarter on a sharp pass to a driving Jones off a turnover.
The freshman and senior duo were unstoppable. Fields finished with 24 points — she shot 9-of-12 from the field and 6-of-9 at the foul line — and 11 rebounds, but she remained one assist shy of a triple-double. Jones drilled a trio of 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the second quarter as she used her speed and length to get behind the defense of the visitors from Georgia.
"Our team has a great connection," Fields said. "We know where we are at on the court at all times and where our spots are. Hannah and I have great chemistry, especially in the high-low passing situations. It's been great to play with her and others as I continue to develop my game. My dream is to make it big in basketball and go as far as I can."
Bradley Central sure looks in great hands for a run at the program's seventh TSSAA state championship, with its most recent title coming in heroic fashion in 2019.
The Bearettes have outscored their competition on average 70.7-31.6 through 21 games, all of which they have won by at least double digits.
Sophomore guard Malia Wilcox provided tenacious defense in the first half as she helped shut down the Lady Warriors in a decisive 19-1 run for Bradley Central. Wilcox — who also started the junior varsity game at point guard just before the varsity game — came up with a pair of steals and drew a five-second closely guarded call for her tight defense. She also sank a 3 from the left corner on a nice find from Fields for a 38-15 lead.
"Malia was a spark plug for us," Reuter said. "She was playing around eight minutes a night for us, but we had our sixth man go down for the season, and she is going to play a much larger role now. She is a tempo changer, and I am glad we have her on our team and don't have to go against her."
After falling just one assist away from a historic achievement in a star-studded program, Fields wasn't sweating the near miss.
"I had no idea I almost had a triple-double until I came into the postgame locker room," said Fields, who is one of four Bearettes averaging double figures in points this season. "I was just out there playing my game and having fun. I really think this team has a great chance to go to state and do something really big."
LFO (18-1), which scored 18 points in the third quarter, got 21 points and a pair of steals from Christen Collins.
In the boys' game that followed, Trevor Carpenter scored 21 points to lead Bradley Central to a 65-39 victory over LFO.
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.