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Hirst leads BHS girls to first region crown since 1981

Behind Hirst & Company, the Bearden High School girls basketball program ended a 27-season drought without a region championship.

Led by yet another strong defensive effort plus a combined 37 points from its top two seniors, Bearden whipped Powell 49-32 in the Region 2-AAA Tournament finals Wednesday, March 4, at West High School.

“Defense in the biggest games of the year has been lights out,” said BHS head coach Nathan Hodges, whose Lady Bulldogs win the program’s first region crown since 1981. “Helping each other and closing in on the shooters was kinda the main focus.”

Mary Hirst, Lady Bulldogs 6-foot-1 senior post, continues racking up post-season awards. Hirst was named tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high 21 points while once again disrupting an opponent defensively with rebounds, blocked shots and general intimidation.

“This is our team’s time to shine and I’m really glad [the seniors] are making the best of our last moments,” Hirst said.

Hirst praised Bearden’s backcourt as a key to the team’s improvement since November.

“We’re got a freshman, Jai-Jai [McLaughlin], she’s been doing a great job handling the ball, and we’ve gotten more confident in ourselves,” Hirst said of McLaughlin, an All-tourney honoree along with senior guard Rikki Sanders, who scored 16, and junior guard Taylor Cravanas, who scored four.

McLaughlin, who added two points, simply credited Bearden’s success to “teamwork.”

Hodges said despite Powell playing Sanders man-to-man defensively, “She still found a way to hit three big three[point baskets].

“Our seniors have been great … Rikki and Mary, especially in this tournament, were just outstanding,” Hodges added. “And our junior class had to step up, and we’ve seen Taylor Cravanas, Ellen Smith and Michelle Heath off the bench, those juniors have stepped up.”

Smith had six for the Lady Bulldogs, 24-6 after the win.

Hodges also praised the seasonal effort of senior reserve guard Joy McCuen.

Powell, 21-10 record after the loss, was led by post Jill Herman’s team-high 13.

(See BHS-Tennessee High sub-state story beginning on page 13).


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