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Unbeaten Bulldogs, BHS girls keep rolling in District 4-AAA

In competition Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the Bearden gym, the best surprise was no surprise as the homestanding Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs each took the measure of Sevier County, 43-34 in the girls game and 69-38 in the boys game.

It was a workmanlike effort on both fronts as each team never trailed en route to the victories. While Mark Blevins BHS boys remained unbeaten entering the week (12-0), Nathan Hodges’ Bearden girls were on top in District 4-AAA with a perfect mark (5-0).

Both Bearden teams traveled to Lenoir City Friday, Dec. 19, and defeated LCHS: the BHS girls winning 49-38 while the Bulldog boys dumped the Panthers 81-56.

The Bearden boys opened Kessler’s Super 16 Tournament action at BHS Saturday, Dec. 20, with a 78-44 rout of West. (More details on these games later in the story).

Bearden faced Grace Christian Academy Monday, Dec. 22 (after press deadline) Championship game was Tuesday, Dec. 23.


For the Bearden girls (8-1 overall), Mary Hirst converted two three-point plays at the start of the fourth quarter to extend a 9-point lead to 15 and the Lady Bulldogs never looked back. That was enough of a momentum swing for the home team to win by nine and avoid a letdown after last Friday’s win versus rival Farragut.

“It just took a while for her to wake up,” Hodges said. “Once she did, she took over.”

Hirst scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the final stanza, plying impressively at both ends of the court.

She had a steal-and-go for a lay-up, drawing a foul at the 7:38 mark of the final period, and earned another three-point play off a nifty feed from Rikki Sanders for another trifecta at the 7:15 mark.

“I decided to turn it around,” Hirst said. “Once I finally got in my head I have to make my lay-ups, then I started concentrating more. We were all mentally prepared, knowing we could have a big letdown after a big win like that.”

“I thought we played well at times and poorly at times,” Hodges said. “Coming off a really tough game against Farragut, it was a challenge to get ramped up for another district game. We knew Sevier County would play hard, but we did enough. That’s what counts.”

After Sevier County (4-5, 2-2), playing without five injured players (three on crutches), closed an early 5-0 lead to 5-4, Sanders had a three-point play of her own to expand the lead.

A 10-5 bulge in the second period gave the Lady Bulldogs a 20-13 lead at halftime that expanded to nine points after three quarters. Then Hirst took over, carrying the Lady Bulldogs on her back down the stretch.

Sanders backed up Hirst with 10 points in the first half; making some heady plays as befits a senior guard.

“After winning Friday, we knew that if we lost this game, it would put us right back as if we hadn’t won.”

Sevier County’s Kendall Baxter knocked home 15 points, with three three-pointers that kept her team in the game. Chelsey Haney added 11 points.

Against Lenoir City, Hirst and Sanders led the way with 12 points each, followed by Ellen Smith with eight, Jai Jai McLaughlin six, Michelle Heath five, Taylor Cravanas four and Leslie Sayers two points.

Bearden heads to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., for the Playground Area Shootout Dec. 27, 29-30.


Bearden’s boys (5-0 in 4-AAA) jumped to a 16-6 first quarter lead, extended the margin to 44-26 at the half, and coasted home from there to take a 69-38 win versus the Smokey Bears (2-6, 1-3) that had the requisite number of brilliant plays fans have come to expect from this Bulldog squad, including one monster jam by Blake Jenkins off the feed from Jaeland Lawson.

“There’s a lot of big-time basketball coming up,” head coach Mark Blevins said. “I was pleased, for the most part. The kids played hard. That ‘Gray Ghost’ second group plays so hard. We just need to get the first group playing as hard as the second group does, “

Blake Jenkins had 12 points, 10 in the first half, with Galen Campbell coming off the bench for 10 before intermission and finishing with 12. Ty Greene came off the planks to knock down two threes on his way to eight points.

The Bulldogs ran players in and out, as has been their fashion all season, and while it often wasn’t pretty, the effort did result in a decisive win.

“We’re just running, hitting the boards, with defensive intensity,” said center Demonte Simpson, a 6-9 eraser of mistakes in the middle. “We just have to play one game at a time. We got over the win over Farragut and just moved on.”

Gabe Campbell, who came off the bench for six points, echoed what Simpson said. “It gets them tired and keeps them running constantly. We ‘re trying to wear down the other team.”

“Your major concern this time of year is injury,” Blevins said. “We are to the point we only have two practice days until Jan. 5. We’re trying to play 10 for sure every game and then we get some of the younger kids in at the end. That’s a big plus for us.”

Against Lenoir City, Galen Campbell led BHS with 16 points followed by Dion Fair’s 14 and 12 from Gabe Campbell. Leading the way versus West were four Bulldogs with 12 points apiece: Simpson, Jenkins, Gabe Campbell and Craig.


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