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Lady ’Dawgs reached 4-AAA title tilt
Led by district ‘Coach of the Year’ Hodges, BHS whips Lady Mountaineers

What a difference a practice can make.

When the Bearden Lady Bulldogs took the court in a first round 4-AAA tourney match-up against Lenoir City Thursday night, Bearden head coach Nathan Hodges knew something was missing.

After the game he and his team sat down and discussed what went wrong and how to fix it. The result was a 67-60 win in the 4-AAA semifinals against Heritage Saturday, Feb. 17, at Maryville High School.

“We had a long discussion after the Lenoir City game and I outlined everything I could possibly think of that we were doing incorrectly,” said Hodges, recently named District 4-AAA Coach of the Year while leading BHS to a 22-8 record (as of press deadline) after a losing season last year.

Bearden, the No. 2 seed, faced 4-AAA tourney host and No. 1 seed Maryville in the district championship game Tuesday, Feb. 20 (after press deadline).

Regardless of that outcome, Bearden will host a Region 2-AAA game at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23 as either a No. 1 or No. 2 region seed. The girls region tourney semifinal are Monday, Feb. 26, with finals Wednesday, Feb. 28, both at West High School.


Bouncing back from the LCHS game, “I told them that when they came to practice on Friday that I would forgive all that,” Hodges said. “That I would be confident and believe in them as long as they showed up ready to work. And we had the best practice of the year on Friday, and that got us ready for this game.”

Led by senior Allysia Bailey’s 21 points, the Lady Bulldogs were a rejuvenated team, but Heritage was just as determined to come away with the win. And for the majority of the game it was back and forth.

“It counts so we had to bring it with full intensity the entire night,” said Bailey, an All-District first-team honoree along with sophomore post Mary Hirst. “It was a great win.”

Heritage got 20 points each from Katie Brooks and Cassie Hearon, as Brooks’ ability to create off the dribble gave Bearden fits all game long.

“That’s what she does,” Bailey said. “She is a good penetrator and mid-range shooter.”

Bearden took an 18-17 lead after one quarter and Bailey put Bearden up 31-28 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Lady Bulldogs into halftime with a three-point lead.

BHS extended its lead 56-45 at the end of the third quarter, but a fourth quarter rally from Heritage made things interesting.

A jumper by Heritage sophomore Morgan Thomas cut the Bearden lead to 62-60 with just under two minutes remaining, but Bearden held on.

With the senior leadership of Bailey, the Lady Bulldogs never panicked — and having a senior point guard is a nice situation.

“I have been focusing all day,” Bailey said. “I knew what I had to do to help my team win and that has been my mindset all day, because that is what I have to do as the leader of my team.”

With just over three minutes to go in the game, Bailey was called for an offensive foul while driving to the basket. It was her fourth foul and it happened in the middle of a Heritage 7-0 run.

A lot of players would have been flustered in that situation, but according to Hodges that is what makes Bailey so special.

“She has really improved in that area,” Hodges said of Bailey. “Last year she would have struggled in that situation. Tonight was really tough and she made some mistakes, but I am always O-K with an offensive foul if she is trying to attack the basket.”

What a difference a year makes. Last year the Lady Bulldogs were finishing up a disappointing 12-17 season in Hodges’ first year as Bearden’s coach. “We have come a long way and I am really proud of the girls,” he said. “... We have good kids. I outline the plan but they do the work.”


Bailey, a senior guard, earned All-District honors by averaging 17.1 points per game Hirst’s honors were largely based upon a 16 points and eight rebounds per contest.


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