Top-ranked Bearettes finish strong, earn tough victory at Cleveland

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Bradley Central's Harmonie Ware drives to the basket as Cleveland's Ma'Kyah Westfield, left, and Ilianis Rodriguez defend during Friday night's game at Cleveland High School.
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Bradley Central's Harmonie Ware drives to the basket as Cleveland's Ma'Kyah Westfield, left, and Ilianis Rodriguez defend during Friday night's game at Cleveland High School.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — With Cleveland junior star Lauren Hurst altering shots left and right on the way to a five-block performance on her home court, Bradley Central sophomore phenom Kimora Fields had to find other ways besides scoring to help the top-ranked team in TSSAA Class 4A shake off a challenge from an intracounty rival Friday night.

The 6-foot Fields did just that as she had a strip-block underneath the hoop and got the basketball quickly going the other way to TaTianna Stovall, who produced a tough left-handed bank shot — despite being fouled — before letting out a roar.

Shortly after that, Fields hauled in her seventh offensive rebound of what turned out to be a hard-earned 61-50 road victory, turning it into a putback basket for the Bearettes (22-1), who went on a 15-1 run over the final seven minutes of a back-and-forth battle that had 10 lead changes.

"Kimora struggled quite a bit shooting. I give Cleveland credit; Lauren did a great job of challenging a lot of her shots," Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter said of Fields' 5-of-15 performance from the floor. "Kimora came into tonight shooting 72% on the season from the field.

"We ask the question as coaches all the time: What are you doing when you are not scoring? People don't realize how hard it is to get seven offensive rebounds in a game. That is desire and skill. Kimora and TaTianna went up and got the ball on a night where we really didn't shoot good."

The Bearettes shot 21-of-50 (41.2%) from the field, but Fields and Stovall showed why they have become one of the top post duos in the state as each finished with a double-double. Fields totaled 17 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three assists compared to just one turnover, while Stovall had 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, with five of her 10 rebounds coming on the offensive glass.

 

Bradley Central's player of the game, though, might have been point guard Malia Wilcox. The junior's energy fired up her teammates throughout as her quickness and sharp instincts resulted in a game-high five steals as well as five assists. She was also 2-of-3 from 3-point range and made four free throws.

"I was the backup point guard to Sloane Carpenter last season, and she left some big shoes to fill," said Wilcox, whose only turnover came in the final minute with the win practically secured. "I am thankful I got to look up to her and learn how to become a good point guard. It's really fun for me to be the point guard for Bradley Central because you get to see everything play out. I always try to play smart and read the court the best I can at all times. I leave it all out there every time."

Cleveland (16-7) was sparked on offense by senior guard Callie Brewer. The Bradley Central transfer drilled all three of her 3-point attempts and made three steals, showing her athleticism on one of those as she went the length of the court to score with a left-handed finish for a 49-46 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Brewer finished with a game-high 22 points, while Tamiah Tanner came off the bench and made tough shots on her way to nine points for the Lady Blue Raiders. Tanner hit a 3 at the first-quarter buzzer for a 16-15 lead, and the score was 30-all at halftime.

"I feel like we are going to see them again in the region finals," Wilcox said. "This is the most intense game we have had against Cleveland in a while. They put on a show, and I give them their props. They have been working hard, and I love their new coach (Bianca Hensley). They have gotten way better, and I really hope to see them in the state tournament, too."

Cleveland boys 51, Bradley Central 50: Blue Raiders junior Maguire Evans made four 3-pointers and drained a pair of clutch free throws — the result of a technical foul — with 36 seconds remaining on his way to a game-high 20 points in a big home win against rival Bradley.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.

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