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’Dawgs fall to OR in region finals
’Dawgs see 11-point fourth-quarter lead slip away as Oak Ridge rallies for 2-AAA crown

After leading the first three quarters, Bearden watched its 11-point fourth quarter lead slip away as Oak Ridge beat the Bulldogs 61-56 in the Region 2-AAA Championship game Thursday, Feb. 28, at BHS.

Bearden took a 49-38 lead into the final quarter, but Oak Ridge went on a 15-2 run to take a 53-51 lead with 4:44 left in the game after a Tre Smith basket. “They wore us down in their press offense in the last quarter, which eventually killed us,” Bearden head coach Mark Blevins said. “We didn’t go to the right people down the stretch, we panicked.”

After gaining the lead, Oak Ridge went into stall mode. The Wildcats held the ball until the 2:42 mark before they called a timeout. It was a move that allowed the Bulldogs to regain some stamina, and protect junior Nathan Parker who had four fouls. But Bearden couldn’t ever regain the momentum.

“When they went into stall that really helped us,” Blevins said. “If we had played the full four-and-a-half minutes there was a possibility Nathan would foul out and [we’d commit] more turnovers because the momentum was with them.”

The Bulldogs could only muster up five points in the closing minutes and were 1-of-4 from the foul line during the span.

Oak Ridge pressured Bearden all night with its full-court press. While Bearden handled it early on, the pressure got to the Bulldogs in the end and forced numerous turnovers.

“Down the stretch we made a ton of turnovers,” Blevins said. “I have no idea how many we made, but I would say at least 10 in the fourth quarter.”

The Bulldogs didn’t do much to help themselves shooting the ball either. With the strength of Bearden’s inside game, the Bulldogs settled for too many outside shots down the stretch.

Junior 6-foot-9 post Demonte Simpson had 15 points and 22 rebounds, but had only three points in the final quarter.

“We had a tremendous lack of execution in the fourth quarter,” Blevins said. “We hoped that we could go into [Simpson] a little bit more, but we went away from him too much.”

Gabe Campbell had 15 points and Parker 11 for BHS (33-3).

The Bulldogs traveled to Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett for its sectional game Monday, March 3. (After press deadline for full story in this section. See page one for score and basic information).

Quinche Dowdell led Oak Ridge with 21 points and tournament MVP Jared Stephens scored 15 for the Wildcats, who will host Science Hill. The winners of each game will advance to the Class AAA State tournament in Murfreesboro.

“Oak Ridge is the most talented team we have played because they have the quickness and outside shooting, they can play you a variety of ways,” Blevins said. “Oak Ridge played well and they deserve it.”


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