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‘Who didn’t play well?’
State’s No. 2 Dawgs blitz West with 19-0 run to reach 4-AAA finals; BHS girls out

LENOIR CITY — From celebrated standouts to the bottom of a very deep bench, Bearden’s 65-41 win against West in the District 4-AAA tourney semifinals Monday night, Feb. 22, was all-inclusive.

“Tell me, who didn’t play well?” BHS head coach Mark Blevins asked, later adding that his No. 2 state-ranked Class AAA team “played with great intensity. But, you know, they’ve played like this all year (26-2 record).”

Among a seemingly endless bench of key contributors is Bulldogs junior wing Austin Weida, a transfer from Davenport, Iowa who scored seven points while winning Blevins’ praise.

Having played at North Scott High School, which is “not as big as Bearden,” Weida said, “The competition is better down here.”

About a 19-0 Bearden run early in the second quarter, turning a 13-11 Rebels lead into a 30-13 Bulldogs edge, Blevins said, “I thought our second group really played big right there.”

Blevins, recently named 4-AAA Coach of the Year, said “Weida came in and did a nice job and [DeQuan] Wright did a nice job.”

Meanwhile, Nathan Hodges’ Lady Bulldogs had their season ended in just one tourney game (more later in this story).

Sensing the kill early in the second was Rico White, junior All-district guard who led BHS with 18 points (7 of 11 shooting). “Me and Ty [Greene] were at the scorers table talking, like, ‘this is where we’ve got to put them away.’”

The win put BHS into the championship game versus No. 3 seed Lenoir City (20-7) Wednesday, Feb. 24 (after press deadline).

LC won in dramatic fashion, 61-59, versus No. 2 seed Knoxville Catholic, led by 4-AAA league MVP Tyler Hood’s 31 points. KCHS (18-8) was paced by All-District league honorees Taylor Broussard (16 points) Joey Bodewig (15), Matt Cox (11) and Honorable Mention honoree Lucas Branch (11).

Bearden is assured of a first-round Region 2-AAA home game beginning at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, regardless of Wednesday’s outcome. Region semifinals and finals are Tuesday and Thursday, March 2 and 4.

With Bearden leading 35-21 at the half versus West (18-8), Blevins said, “In the second half I thought defense was the key.”

Greene scored 13, Jaeland Lawson 11, Spencer Peake five, Wright four, two each for Will Winton, Drew Standifer and Chris Phillips (Honorable Mention All-4-AAA league) and one for Dion Fair.

Bearden’s girls, No. 4 seed, lost to No. 5 Heritage 47-35 Feb. 18, largely due to poor shooting, both perimeter and free throw-wise.

However, “I told my seniors I was proud of them ... the way they’ve worked and improved their skills ... and our program has gone to a whole new level since they’ve been here,” Hodges said of seniors Ellen Smith (All-District), Shayla McDaniel (Honorable Mention), Taylor Cravanas and Leslie Sayers.

Sophomore point guard Jai-Jai McLaughlin also earned All-4-AAA league honors for BHS (13-9).


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