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Blevins’ BHS boys trying to run their way toward district and region honors

2003-04 Bearden High School boys’ varsity basketball team
The rival coach is already singing Bearden’s praises.

That’s what Farragut High School boys head basketball coach Donald Dodgen did when asked about the competition in District 4-AAA this season.

“I think right now, Bearden is the best team in the district,” Dodgen said of Mark Blevins’ Bulldogs, who along with Maryville have owned 4-AAA and Region 2-AAA during the past three season. “They’ve got the best nucleus and they’ve got the best coach in the district right now. I think they’re playing so well together, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Fueling their impressive scrimmage play is a mountain of quickness — allowing Bearden to play up-tempo with lots of defensive pressure — plus depth good enough to where Blevins says he may play as many as “12 or 13” Bulldogs on a regular basis.

Several younger BHS players on last season’s team saw valuable playing time — especially during post-season play when a short-handed Bulldog squad repeatedly drew mounds of praise from Blevins en route to sub-state play.


“We’re going to have good quickness,” Blevins said. “It probably won’t be any different from the second-half of (last) season. We’re hoping that we can penetrate well. We’ll be playing a lot of kids, and we’ll try and open it up and hopefully our defense will be one of our best offenses. It should be an exciting brand of basketball to play.”

As for Blevins’ depth, “we should play at least two at each position, and that’ll give a lot of kids a chance to play and contribute,” he said. “A lot of times at Bearden, we’ve been slower with big guys and we had to play a slow, controlled type game. But we definitely want to play the transition style.”

As for defense, “we like to play man (to-man) a lot, so we’ll pressure you in man.”


Though lacking in size under the basket, senior 6-foot-6 post Jeremy Holliday is a big exception. “He’ll start in the post,” Blevins said of Holliday, who was one of several Bulldogs who earned praise in the post-season after the team suddenly lost its top regular-season scorer from last season, Kyle Cruze.

“Holliday had a really good summer for us,” Blevins said.

Junior Aaron Comer (6-foot-4) and sophomore Thomas Wiley (6-foot) are competing for playing time as the back-up “five” man.

“After that, we’re basically playing four guards, or three guards and one forward,” Blevins said. At the four-spot, “which will primarily be a ‘four/guard’ position according to Blevins, will be sophomore Grant Domsic (6-foot-2), a part-time starter last season who Blevins labeled his most improved player as of early November. “Domsic, he’s shooting the ball extremely well, and he’s able to penetrate now,” Blevins said. “He’s improved a lot.”

Backing up Domsic will be juniors Nathan England and Ryan Pate.

Another experienced Bulldog with explosive quickness is 6-foot-1 senior Mario McClunie, who will start at the “three-spot” or wing. Senior Michael Scruggs, the starting point-guard, and sophomore B.J. Ware will back-up McClunie.

“Our ‘three-guys’ are our better defenders,” Blevins said. “That’s who usually defends the opposition’s best player. And they can shoot the ball.”

Junior Paul Dickenson (5-foot-9), who lit up the gyms during post-season play last season with his mostly successful NBA-length three-point jumpers off the bench, is currently listed as the starting “two-guard.” Senior Lance Summers and sophomore Rande Sibley are competing for the back-up spots.

“All of our ‘two-guys’ can shoot the ball,” Blevins said.

Scruggs (6-foot-1), yet another lightning quick Bulldog, and sophomore Tony White (5-foot-11) are expected to share starting point guard duties according to Blevins.

White, son of former UT Vol and All-SEC point guard Tony White Sr. from the mid-1980s, showed some flashes of his father’s penetration abilities coming off the bench during post-season play. Simbly is also battling for point-guard playing time.

“We want our point guards to penetrate, but all of our perimeter guys can penetrate,” Blevins said.

As for any one Bulldog being expected to carry the load offensively, “I think from night to night we’ll have a different high scorer,” Blevins said.

Splitting his squad up into a pair of six-team units during fall scrimmages, Blevins said the goal is to “give all of them an equal chance to see what they can do. Everybody gets a lot of playing time, and I get to see everybody play varsity squad.”

Junior guard Josh Mathys and sophomore guard Katlin Garner will also compete for playing time.

Assistant coaches are Mitch Carter and Stormy BIllingsley.

Blevins listed “injuries” as the team’s biggest weakness. “We had a rash of injuries last year, Michael (Scruggs) got hurt (in early December) and he was out for a month,” the coach said as he began listing his injury-prone players. “Mario got hurt (early December) and he was out almost a month. Grant (Domsic), he got hurt and he was out about two weeks. This year we’re hoping that we’ll stay away from injuries.”

As a result, “we played a lot of different line-ups throughout the season, which kind of helped us, probably, for playoff time,” Blevins said.

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