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Bulldogs’ ‘Big 4’ fight off Hunley, Admirals rally

Jaeland Lawson, not one to sleep well before big games — especially if he hates the opponent — simply went wild in the first half with 20 points as his Bearden Bulldogs built a 17-point lead at archrival Farragut.

However, behind a team-high 24 points from senior wing/post Landon Hunley — and greatly slowing Lawson with a triangle-and-two defense — the scrappy Admirals fought back. With a short Hunley basket, FHS went ahead 57-56 with 5:41 to play.

But Spencer Peake, Bulldog junior post/wing, stepped up big in FHS’s Lynn E. Sexton Gymnasium Friday night (13 points total) and hit a clutch three-pointer to go up 59-57.

With stiff defense late, forcing consecutive turnovers at a key juncture, Bearden then put its possessions in deep freeze successfully. Seven converted free throws from junior guard Rico White in the final four minutes sealed the issue, beating the Admirals 72-66 Dec. 11.

“I couldn’t go to sleep, tossing and turning all night … I was ready to go, I’ve been ready to go since Wednesday,” said Lawson, a 5-foot-11 junior point/wing, who matched Hunley with a co-game-high 24 as Bearden improved to 9-0 overall, 3-0 in District 4-AAA. Farragut fell to 6-3, 0-2.

“I was born for this,” Lawson added. “I’m a Bulldog at heart.

“I hate the Admirals.”

White, who had 15 points, 14 in the second half, quoted his father, former UT Vols standout and NBA player Tony White Sr. “I like pressure; my dad always said, ‘Pressure busts pipes,’” White said.

About Lawson and Ty Greene, junior wing who scored 14, White said, “They had a great first half.”

BHS head coach Mark Blevins said Peake played “by far his best game. He’s actually going to get his first defensive star now … Spence’s three was vital.”

Donald Dodgen, FHS head coach, said Peake “was the difference in the ballgame.”

After Farragut took its brief lead, Blevins said, “We were able to force a couple of turnovers, and they didn’t get anything, I think, out of four trips.”

About Lawson, Blevins said his junior’s array of driving short jumpers and three-point baskets “was phenomenal in the first half. His offensive performance was as good as we’ve had since Tony White Jr.”

Dodgen said assistant coach Chris Cool “came up with” the triangle-and-two defense to slow Lawson, adding Farragut’s defense “could handle two but we couldn’t handle three” of Bearden’s standout guard trio (Lawson, White, Greene). “They were just a little bit quicker than we were.

“I thought the kids played hard, I really did,” Dodgen added. “We were down 17, we made the run but we just had a couple of little things happen to us … we didn’t get the breaks, we didn’t make the breaks.”

About Hunley, Dodgen said, “I thought he played an excellent ballgame.”

Blevins labeled Hunley “a great player.”

However, though FHS senior point guard Wayman McLaughlin scored 13 and sophomore guard Blake Williams 10, Dodgen added, “Some of the other guys who need to score for us just didn’t have a good shooting night. And that’s one difference in the ballgame.”

Drew Standifer added five points for Bearden. Chris Phillips hit a free throw.

Holding Lawson to just four second-half points was mostly credited to McLaughlin. “The second half it was more of a confidence thing,” McLaughlin said. “The first half it was more of like, you didn’t know what he was capable of so you kinda played off. I let him score too many points.

“In the second half my coach told me, it’s on me to ‘D’ him up,” he added. “I went out there with full confidence and played my best.”

Reese Browning scored six points for the Admirals. Nick Bender added five.

Stephen Britton, FHS senior reserve post who scored three points, said about the comeback, “We changed up our defense in the second half and we played really hard. And the guys really came together in the second half.”

Farragut’s Taylor Diegel scored three while Will Park added two.


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