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Lady Bulldogs own 4-AAA

SEVIERVILLE — Dominant as the team was in regular season District 4-AAA action, the Bearden Lady Bulldogs got a special thrill out of winning the 4-AAA tourney. It’s been a while coming.

And doing so in dominating fashion for a half with defense and size before holding on for dear life late against a Heritage team coming into the 4-AAA tournament title game with a 24-4 record.

Winning its first post-season tournament of any kind in 10 years, top-seeded Bearden captured the 4-AAA tourney crown following a 48-38 victory against No. 2 seed Heritage Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Sevier County High School.

All-tourney choice Taylor Cravanas’ 13 points, many of them clutch in the second half, led BHS, top-seed with a 13-1 league record (21-6 overall), breaking open the game early by holding the Lady Mountaineers scoreless for more than eight minutes from late in the first half to the final 30 seconds of the second quarter. The result was a 21-0 run and a 28-13 halftime lead.

“We played incredible on both ends in the first half,” BHS head coach Nathan Hodges said. “Went strong to the basket, finished plays. And on the defensive end it seemed like we were in the right spot at all times.”

Though tourney and league MVP Mary Hirst scored just seven points, the 6-foot-1 senior blocked nine shots to highlight her defensive dominance.

Following a near post-season title chance that got away two years ago, Hirst said, “there’s no way we were going to let this one get away from us,” adding that for her and other BHS seniors Joy McCuen and Rikki Sanders, “It’s been the most fun year we could have ever asked for.”

Smith, a 6-foot-2 junior post and All-tourney choice who scored 12 and created havoc for Heritage in the paint, said “Defense and our size, we had to close in on their three-point shooters because they have really good shooters. And when we have a lot of points inside, we tend to do good.”

Beating the Lady Mountaineers for the third time this season, the Lady Bulldogs held a 34-20 lead after three before the Heritage rallied to rim the lead to five.

About the HHS rally, “I give most of that to Heritage,” Hodges said. “Mary Hirst, Rikki Sanders and Joy McCuen, our three seniors … I think through all their experience, the veteran leadership just showed through.”

Cravanas made HHS pay for its full-court pressure with a driving lay-up, sank two free throws at the 1:36 mark, making it 45-38, then iced the game after two free throws with 42.9 seconds to play.

Other Bearden scorers were Sanders, an all-league honoree, with nine, McDaniel four and Jai Jai McLauglin three.

Round one of the Region 2-AAA tourney for Bearden is hosting Campbell County beginning at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 27.


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