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Big-time competition for Bearden hoops teams
Lady ’Dawgs 2nd in Florida tourney; lose to nationally ranked Ky. team

It was “heavyweight alley” from the Sunshine State to the Bluegrass State for Bearden’s Lady Bulldogs basketball team last week.

Nathan Hodges’ BHS girls managed one win in three games against extremely tough competition playing in two states — including one nationally ranked school — while finishing runners-up in the Playground Area Shootout in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Playing what coach Hodges said was “probably our best game of the season,” Bearden (10-3) reached the Playground finals with a 47-35 win versus Pensacola High School Dec. 29. “They were a highly ranked team in Florida.”

Mary Hirst, Bearden senior post, “had probably her best game of the season” according to Hodges and led all scorers with 21 points. “Mary got their big post player in foul trouble early. … Once she went out of the game, Mary kept attacking the basket. A real force inside on the offensive end.

“And all of our guards handled the press really well,” he added. “Right from the tip we handled their pressure well. When they tired to press us, we were able to break it and turn those possessions into points.”

Bearden zoomed ahead 16-5 after one quarter and led 33-14 at the break.

Ellen Smith and Rikki Sanders each scored eight for the Lady Bulldogs, while Taylor Cravanas added four and two each for Joy McCuen, Shayla McDaniel and Brooke Snyder.

The championship game found BHS limited to just 12 points the final three quarters in a 36-20 loss to Choctawhatchee (Fla., host school) Dec. 30.

“That was our worst game of the year,” Hodges said.

Leading 8-2 after one quarter, Hodges admitted he “really didn’t know” what happened to his offense, but added, “We really went cold from the field. … They did a good job of adjusting their gameplan to take away our inside game, which is our strength.”

With Bearden trailing 13-12 at halftime, “They slowed the game down a little bit in the third quarter and just did a really good job of executing and scoring when they could.”

Hirst and Sanders each led the Lady Bulldogs with seven points each.

The week ended on an humbling note in Lexington, Ky. versus nationally ranked Lexington Christian Academy Saturday, Jan. 3, as the Lady Bulldogs were drilled 67-30.

As for motivation to schedule this game, Hodges said, “The boys team is playing Oak Hill [Academy, Va.] later in the year [Jan. 23 at BHS], and we needed a game that kinda matched that. This was our big step-up game, kind of a test to see where we were and play somebody we knew was more talented than we are.”

McDaniel, a junior guard, led BHS with 14 points. Hirst scored five, Jai-Jai McLaughlin three, two each for McCuen, Morgan Thomas and Sanders, and one point for Michelle Heath.

“I think we were kinda intimidated coming into their place,” Hodges said about the No. 2-ranked team in Kentucky, all classes included. “And the game was on television in Kentucky. … But I think it was a good experience for our girls to go through that.”

About his team’s long road trip spanning more than 1,000 miles of travel, “It’s a good experience for us to be on the road away from home,” Hodges said.


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