This story was updated March 7, 2018, at 11:55 p.m. with more information.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — If defense is an underrated part of Bradley Central girls' basketball, it especially shouldn't be after the in-game clinic the No. 2-ranked Bearettes put on Wednesday at the Class AAA state tournament.
Bradley limited fifth-ranked Daniel Boone to single-digit points in every quarter, and as a result, the Bearettes will be moving on to a semifinal after defeating the Lady Trailblazers 56-27 at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center.
Bradley (33-0) will play again Friday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern against Houston, which beat Mt. Juliet 70-54 in their Wednesday quarterfinal.
Not one of the Lady Trailblazers, who were led by Baleigh Carmichael's eight points, shot as high as 50 percent from the floor. The Bearettes came up with nine steals and blocked five shots, with Anna Walker blocking four.
"Our defense really just grinds people down," Walker said. "It's one of the main parts of our plan, particularly in the halfcourt. Our defense is one of the biggest parts of our game."
Daniel Boone (30-5) had several stretches of field-goal droughts, with long ones ending each half. The Lady Trailblazers' last basket of the first half was Carmichael's 3-pointer at 7:39 of the second quarter.
Ending up 16-for-21 on free-throw shooting is why they somewhat stayed in the game. They trimmed a 14-point halftime deficit to 29-21 on Belmont signee Macie Culbertson's three-point play with 4:03 to go in the third quarter, then failed to make another basket.
"Their halfcourt defense was the difference," Daniel Boone coach Travis Mains said. "We had five field goals the whole game. The way they played man-to-man in the halfcourt was excellent. They've got a great coach, great players and a great system. They're very physical. It's hard to beat them off the dribble. They're always in the right spots."
The Bearettes, who beat Daniel Boone 56-43 in Bradley's Thanksgiving tournament, ended up with a 20-0 advantage in bench scoring.
"They came out with a valiant effort there in the third quarter," Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. "Probably a smarter coach than me would've called a timeout. But I thought they were ready for the oil light to come on. They played those five girls as hard as they could go. They just don't have any depth. That's why I held on to those timeouts."
It's not the first this year but a rare occasion when Miss Basketball winner and Kentucky signee Rhyne Howard doesn't lead Bradley in scoring, but her 12 points were one shy of Hannah Lombard's total. As if Jamaryn Blair's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter wasn't demoralizing enough for the Lady Trailblazers, Lombard scored the first eight points of the fourth, including two 3s within a span of 29 seconds that made the lead 48-21.
One of Reuter's concerns coming into the game was how the Bearettes would deal with Carson-Newman signee Sydney Pearce, the Lady Trailblazers' 6-foot-3 center. But Walker and substitute Alexis Barnes combined for 13 points in the post, more than offsetting Pearce's seven, and they equaled her six rebounds.
"Anna Walker and Alexis Barnes, my two sophomores, are about 6-foot barely," Reuter said. "She's a big gal. She's a load to move, a senior. She had five blocks against us in our tournament. They get in that wide 2-3 zone, and the reason they do that is because they have a rim protector.
"Walker was able to swing around her once and use that left hand she's been working on. Barnes scored once when the ball about went off the top of the backboard and trickled in. And that was with her left hand.
"I didn't know if we could score on that size."
Said Walker: "I think we did a good job against her, really. When they're that tall, you just have to take it up into them."
Although Howard was limited to almost half her scoring average, she still led the Bearettes with 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.