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Bearden records district road wins over William Blount

MARYVILLE — Leslie Sayers and Mary-Mc Alexander are valuable wings, being part-time starters on an extremely short bench, for the Bearden Lady Bulldogs.

In fact, Sayers or Alexander — whomever doesn’t start — make up the entire depth of Lady Bulldogs likely to see crunch-time action.

While there’s no time for controversy with only six girls contributing for Bearden in recent weeks, a rivalry for starting honors — and playing time — between Sayers and Alexander isn’t a concern.

“We’re best friends,” Sayers was quick to point out — while Alexander smiled and nodded enthusiastically — about the pair’s relationship shortly after Bearden’s 47-36 District 4-AAA win at William Blount Tuesday night, Feb. 2.

While Sayers, a senior, said jump shooting is her biggest strength, Alexander, a junior, said she “tries to be encouraging, 24/7, and I really try to play well on defense, because I love defense.”

Meanwhile, the state’s No. 2-ranked Class AAA Bearden boys (21-0, 11-0) struggled to put away William Blount (12-10, 4-8) — clinging to single-digits leads into the fourth quarter before pulling away for a 73-56 win.

Ty Greene, Bulldogs standout junior wing, scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. (More on this game later in story)

Nathan Hodges, BHS girls head coach, said that final wing starting spot for either Sayers or Alexander, and the amount of playing time, depends “on the night, and depending on who the match-ups are with the other team.

“Sayers is a little bit better with outside shooting ... like tonight, Sayers [who started] hit a big three-pointer when we needed some scoring,” Hodges added. “But late in the game, when we had the lead, we need Mary-Mc on the floor to guard their shooter because she just has a little bit more quickness on the defensive end.

“Alexander drives it a little better ... but Sayers guards players around the basket better.”

Sayers’ three-pointer began a run that saw a 24-20 Lady Govs lead early in the third quarter be erased for good with an 8-0 BHS surge.

Bearden improves to 12-5 overall, 8-3 in 4-AAA. William Blount falls to 8-14, 4-9.

Since Mallory Uekman, junior starting wing, went down with a season-ending knee injury early in the season, Alexander and Sayers each have started about the same number of games and seen close to equal playing time.

Overall, “We picked it up offensively in the second half,” Hodges said. “I think our post players, being able to score and finish around the basket, deserve credit, and our guards deserve a lot of credit for getting the ball inside.”

Three Lady Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by Ellen Smith, senior post, with 13 points. Jai-Jai McLaughlin, sophomore point guard, added 12, Shayla McDaniel, senior forward, scored 10 and Taylor Cravanas, senior guard, added nine points.

Shelby Click, WBHS guard who hit four three-point basket in the first half fueling a 22-20 Lady Govs halftime lead, ended with a game-high 19.

Meanwhile, the state’s No. 2-ranked Class AAA Bearden boys had lots of trouble shaking a William Blount team having won just four of 11 district games in entering Tuesday’s contest.

Chris Phillips, BHS 6-foot-6 senior post who scored three points, pointed to blood on his arm indicating the physical nature of Tuesday’s game.

“It was a hard-fought game, I’m bleeding on my arm a little,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to be more physical, because all the team’s we’re playing now, they know we’re No. 1, so they’re going after us.”

Also, “the past couple of games we just can’t hit anything,” Phillips said about team shooting. “We have to take in inside more,” adding he must improve his ability to “finish inside.”

Will Winton scored 12 for the Bulldogs, followed by 11 from Rico White, eight from Dion Fair and seven points from Drew Standifer.

DeQuan Wright and Jaeland Lawson each tallied five for BHS.

Bulldogs make-up games are: home versus Lenoir City Monday, Feb. 8; at West, Thursday, Feb. 11.


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