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Dawgs use 22-2 run to blast Irish
KCHS girls upset Bearden

Catholic’s Clare Conaty looks to pass as BHS’s Jai-Jai McLaughlin applies defensive pressure.- Dan Barile/farragutpress
Neighborhood rivals Bearden and Knoxville Catholic got after it in fine style before a near capacity crowd at the Catholic gym Friday night, Jan. 14, resulting in a split decision.

Catholic's girls (4-11 overall, 1-6 in District 4-AAA), trailing 25-22 midway in the fourth quarter, pulled off a 17-9 run to overtake the Lady Bulldogs (7-8, 3-3) for a 39-34 decision.

Bearden’s boys team (17-1, 5-1), locked in a tight contest at 39-33 in the third quarter, ran away and hid with a 22-2 run of its own closing out the period to win versus the Catholic boys (10-4, 4-2) 78-52.

The Bulldogs followed up with a 90-41 drubbing of Lenoir City at BHS Saturday, Jan. 15, led by Ty Green’s game-high 24 points followed by Drew Standifer (15), Spencer Peake (13) and 10 each from Dion Fair and Rico White.

Despite 16 points each from Jai-Jai McLaughlin and Mallory Uekman, the Lady Bulldogs fell to LCHS 54-49.

The BHS-Catholic girls game started slowly with just six points scored in the first quarter. Catholic led 12-11 at halftime and 20-19 entering the fourth quarter.

“They played hard the whole time collectively as a team,” said BHS junior point guard Jai-Jai McLaughlin, who ended with 10 points. “They're a scrappy team, and they wanted to win. It was surprising how many of our shots weren't falling.”

Bearden tied the game at 24 with a three-point play by freshman guard Lexus Norwood, who also ended with 10 points — 6-of-7 from the foul line.

“I think we had a couple of lapses defensively where we didn’t see the ball, and they got a couple of easy ones,” BHS head coach Richard Cowan said. “They had a runout where they scored and we fouled them and they got the free throw. After that, it was hard to recover.

“They haven’t had a league win in two years, and I think they smelled victory,” Cowan added. “They were really aggressive and took us out of a lot of stuff we do.”

Catholic grabbed the lead at 30-29 and rode the free throw shooting of sophomore guard Clare Conaty down the stretch to end up the victor.

Conaty, who came off the bench, was the only Catholic player in double figures with 18 points, shooting 9-for-12 from the line down the stretch.

The answer, Conaty said, was practice.

“We do it every day, and you just have to rely on what you work on ... I haven't shot free throws that good, but I've been trying hard and my hard work paid off for me,” she said.

Catholic head coach David Ball said, “We've been right there at the edge, and that's what we've been talking about. ... This is the 15th game of the year, and every game has gone into the fourth quarter, except for one.

“I'm proud of my team's heart and determination,” he added. “I've tried to preach to them that hard work pays off.”

Sophomore Abby McCullough had big buckets to narrow the margin to 25-24 and give the Lady Irish a lead it would not relinquish at 29-28.

The Lady Bulldogs played without senior wing and team captain Mary-Mc Alexander, who left the team after a late December game against Karns.

“We missed Mary-Mc,” Cowan said, not elaborating further.

In the boys game, the two teams were battling furiously into the third quarter before the Bulldogs buried Catholic.

Greene, who led with 17 points, said it was a matter of playing harder.

“It's going to lead to turnovers, fast break opportunities, and getting out into transition, and that's where we thrive,” he said. “That's what we tried to accomplish. We shared the ball really well.”

Senior post Will Winton ended up with 13 points as did White.

“Rico hit some big shots in the third quarter, but the defensive pressure was really good,” Bearden head coach Mark Blevins said. “This was one of our better games and, maybe the week-and-one-half layoff might have helped us.

“Everybody played strong,” Blevins added. “Will Winton had one of his best games overall. Ty had one of his best games.”

Winton had a three-pointer to cap the 22-2 run, giving the Bulldogs a 61-35 lead after three quarters.

“I feel like I played fairly well ... If we were to lose this game, we might finish as low as third in the district, and we don't want that,” Winton said. “We set our standards very high.”

Matt Cox’s 13 points led the Irish.

“It wasn't like we weren't up in them," Catholic head coach Mike Hutchens said. “I thought our effort was much better tonight, and we did better on the boards. They're [17-1] for a reason. We don't have a bad ballclub.

“We're the smallest team in the state of Tennessee playing AAA basketball.”


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