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Motivated by last year’s failures, Bearden defense shuts down Ads

Farragut had never swept a Mark Blevins-coached Bearden High School boys basketball team in one season dating back to the mid-1990s — until last year.

Combine that with a 93-90 overtime loss at defending Class AAA state champ Maryville Tuesday, Dec. 4, and you had a snarling bunch of Bulldogs Friday, Dec. 7, in FHS’s Lynn E. Sexton Gymnasium. It took a quarter-and-a-half for Bearden’s defense to really clamp down against the Admirals but Blevins’ late-week message of revenge sunk in, leading to a commanding 66-47 victory.

“Coach told us we were the first Bearden team ever to be swept in a season [2-0], that got our intensity going,” junior wing Gabe Campbell said. “We turned our defense on and got the win.”

Holding Farragut to only two points in the third quarter turned a 38-32 Bulldog halftime lead into a 52-34 bulge after three frames. The Ads got no closer than within 15 during the final eight minutes.

BHS senior point guard Andy Fennell said about the Ads’ ’06-07 sweep, “[Blevins] brings that up just to motivate us, and it works. … We had a good [halftime] talk and we turned it on and we were ready to play the second half.”

Bearden entered the week 10-1 overall, 2-1 in District 4-AAA, while FHS dropped to 7-2, 2-2.

Farragut trailed early 8-1 before going on a 18-4 run to turn a 16-10 deficit into a 28-20 lead following a Kyle Binder rebound basket with 5:05 left in the first half.

The Admirals managed just 11 points the next 18 minutes.

“Farragut ran their offense really well and back-cut us to death there about midway through the first quarter,” Blevins said.

Demonte Simpson, 6-foot-9 junior post, scored 14 just three days after a 27-point performance against Maryville. Plus defense.

“Demonte did a much better job with help defense in the third [quarter],” Blevins added. “It was more of a pride factor, too.”

Simpson said, “Coach told us at halftime we played bad defense, so we had to pick it up. Defense wins games.”

Blake Jenkins, 6-foot-7 junior guard/forward who scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, said Blevins took last year’s sweep “and shoved it down our throats. … We came out with a lot of intensity in the second half, coach got on to us.”

Blevins said Jenkins “had a good game offensively. The fourth quarter I thought he was the key. He got three or four baskets and that kept the margin the way it was.”

Gabe Campbell added nine for the Bulldogs, with Dustin Craig scoring eight, Nathan Parker seven and three points each for Fennell and Marcus Webb.

Blevins praised Fennell’s leadership at the point. “He held his man in check both nights [including Maryville game],” he said. “He was the only player we had that was able to do that. Defensively he played much, much better than anybody else, both games.”

Despite Fennell’s three first-half turnovers against FHS, “He settled down and really played well the second half,” Blevins added.

Farragut head coach Donald Dodgen explained his team’s offensive woes during the last two-and-a-half quarters. “We just could not create any kind of looks — I think they had a lot to do with it. I also think we shot very, very poorly.

“Give Bearden all the credit, they came out third quarter and just completely took us out of our offense,” the FHS skipper added. “This is the toughest team we’ve played all year.

“Maryville’s a good ballclub, but Bearden, right now, they’re a lot deeper. I think Bearden right now is probably one of the best teams in the state.”

Admiral senior guard Riley Hunley led FHS with 13 points, nine in the first half. All nine of senior guard Esean Phillips’ points came in the first 16 minutes, as did all eight of junior guard Jonathan Moore’s points.

Farragut senior wing John Abraham was held scoreless against BHS three days after leading with 19 points in a 57-48 home win Dec. 4 versus Sevier County. “They did a good job defending him, he got two shots,” Dodgen said.

Posts Binder and Sam Watson each scored six, while senior forward Chris Carroll tallied five.


Hunley added 10 against SCHS. Among other scorers, Nate Clark had two and Ben Saunders one.

Individually over the past two games, “I thought Riley played well both games,” Dodgen said. “Jonathan Moore played pretty steady both games.”


The Bulldogs failed to hold on despite leading 59-53 after three quarters. It was 77-77 entering OT.

Jenkins scored 19, Fennell 11 and Parker 10 points.

Blevins said the MHS game “had a lot to do” with Bearden’s improve defensive play against Farragut. Rebel standout guard Jordan Damron blazed the nets with 40 points, second most ever scored by one player against a Blevins-coached BHS team.


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