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Dawgs advance to state; girls barely miss
BHS defense smothers ‘East’ for sub-state romp, school record for wins

Bearden’s defense in the second period against Morristown East almost was criminal assault. But very legal.

Smothering a severely out-manned Hurricanes team defensively, the state’s No. 1-ranked Bulldogs set a school record for wins at 35 (35-2) and earned the program’s fifth-ever trip to the TSSAA Class AAA state tournament.

As first reported on Farragut First Edition, March 9, it was a 76-34 laugher in sub-state action Monday at BHS.

Senior guard Blake Jenkins and sophomore guard Rico White led Bearden with 13 points each.

Morristown East, ending its season 25-9, was led by guard Casey Smith’s eight points.

A big part of Monday’s story according to BHS head coach Mark Blevins was senior guard Blake Jenkins holding Morristown East standout Austin Gardner to five points, almost 15 under his season average. “That was Blake’s guy, and Blake did a phenomenal job on him tonight,” Blevins said. “Blake had a sensational game tonight.”

Bearden only led MEHS 13-9 after one but held the Hurricanes scoreless for a 5:28 stretch of the second period by forcing tons of turnovers off full-court and half-court pressure. A 23-2 run resulted as the Bulldogs led 36-14 at halftime.

“Our pressure defense was really good ... we got up in the passing lanes and played a lot stronger,” Blevins said. “Defensively there were a lot of stars tonight, everybody played well.”

The Maroon and Gray offense heated up for 29 third-quarter points, as BHS built a 65-23 lead after three.

Ty Greene, BHS sophomore reserve guard, said the Hurricanes played “a little dirty” in the first quarter, further motivating the Bulldogs’ second-quarter response.

“They were throwing elbows, putting their shoulder into yah on screens,” he said. “Just a lot of stuff you can’t really see, but as a player you feel it a lot. They were tugging our jerseys.

“We took that as motivation and we came out and we started picking up the intensity.”

Nathan Parker scored nine for Bearden, with Galen Campbell and Gabe Campbell adding eight apiece and Jaeland Lawson seven.

Demonte Simpson scored six, while Nick Kelley and J.P. Burris each scored three. Greene and Dion Fair added two apiece.

Looking ahead to Murfreesboro, Blevins — who takes his fourth team to state in 15 years as BHS head coach — pointed to his team’s depth as critical.

“We haven’t worn ourselves out because so many kids have played,” the coach said. “Even our third group’s got a lot of action this year.”

However, looking ahead to March 19-21 and the state field, “You’re going to have Raleigh Egypt [Memphis], 12-deep, strong; you’re going to have the best guard in the country, Joe Jackson [White Station], had 41 last week [but] Memphis Central had White Station down 22 at the half,” Blevins said.

“And White Station’s going to be great. ... Science Hill’s really peaking if they won tonight,” the coach added. “Unless Oak Ridge upset them that would be 19 in a row for Science Hill.”

Overcoming last season’s disappointing finish short of Murfreesboro, Simpson, 6-foot-9 senior post, spoke for the BHS team and said, “We told ourselves we weren’t going to disappoint ourselves again. We just came out ready to play this year.”

As for the much tougher competition at state versus recent weeks opponents, Jenkins said, “We’ve played in front of big crowds all year. I think we’re ready for anything.”

The 6-foot-7 senior guard mentioned two keys to success in Murfreesboro: “Intensity is one, and playing as a team.”

Greene praised Bearden’s seniors as “great leaders and great players, and they look out for us.”

Prior to Monday’s game, Blevins was recognized at mid-court for reaching, and surpassing, the 400-win mark at Bearden. Presented a plaque by BHS athletics director Scott Witt, Blevins’ 15-year record as Bulldogs skipper stands at 404-109.

For the second straight season, Bearden ends play versus Knox County foes unblemished. The Bulldogs, in fact, are perfect this season versus in-state opponents.


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