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Miller, size, athleticism await ’Dawgs

It’s state tournament time in Tennessee and no team is more excited to be there than the Bearden Bulldogs. The Bulldogs’ first game against Raleigh-Egypt out of Memphis looks to test Bearden (34-4) on all cylinders.

Led by 6-foot-2 junior guard Maurice Miller, Raleigh-Egypt (34-1) will make use of its tremendous size and athletic abilities against the Bulldogs in their TSSAA Class AAA State Tournament first-round clash today at 3 p.m. EST at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesbore.

“Maurice Miller is from what I understand the top junior point guard prospect in the state and he is going to be a big time D-1 player,” BHS head coach Mark Blevins said. “But he doesn’t play point for them because they have another good point guard, but in AAU he plays point all the time.”

According to Blevins, Raleigh-Egypt’s size in the post could pose a problem for the young Bearden post players.

“For us we want to try to play even in the post,” the coach said. “If our freshman can compete with their seniors in the post then it comes to who has the better guards, and they do have good guards, but we do too.”

The Bulldogs are led by “good guards” featuring Class AAA Mr. Basketball state finalist Tony White Jr.

Blevins compares Raleigh-Egypt to Austin-East, only a lot bigger.

“Personnel wise we kind of have an idea of what they can do and I’m sure they are going to press,” Blevins said. “They usually use two-two-one in the past when they have made the state tournament and they have the same coach so usually they try to do the same thing.

“They are going to have tremendous quickness and [are] extremely aggressive on the boards.”

With the size of the arena at MTSU, Blevins feels that the key to the game may come down to which team can get acclimated to the surroundings better.

“I think that when you get into a big arena, we will probably have a thousand people there ourselves and when you are playing later you are always going to have a much bigger crowd,” Blevins said.

“The shooting background is different because its an open gym and you have all the fans waving in the background behind the basket so that is something that we have to overcome because we are going to put up a lot of outside shots and they will too. So whichever team adapts I think to the perimeter game I think that’s the key,” Blevins said. “I think that we need to get off on the right foot and shoot the ball well and handle the press.”

With a 10-day waiting period from the sub-state game played Monday, March 6, to their first state tournament game today, March 16, Blevins and his team are eagerly anticipating playing another game, but the local support is making the wait a little easier.

“I am telling you we are so looking forward to this, but I tell you the way that our community and our students and the faculty reacted to the kids, this has probably been our most thrilling pre-trip to the state,” the coach said.

A win in Thursday’s opening round will place the Bulldogs in the state semifinals versus the Hunters Lane-Shelbyville winner Friday with tip-off set for 8 p.m. EST.

The state championship game is set for Saturday evening at 8 p.m. EST.

On the other side of the Class AAA bracket are Greeneville, Hamilton, Whites Creek and Siegel.

This week’s trip is the third for the Bearden program under Blevins, with the most recent trip, in 2002, reaching the semifinals.

Ranked among the state’s top-10 Class AAA teams most of the season, Bearden was the District 4-AAA regular season champ and Region 2-AAA champ before beating Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett in the sectionals March 6.


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