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Late West surge thwarted as Dawgs survive; BHS girls fall

It was the battle of “West Knoxville,” Round 3, at the West High gym, with another split decision being in the record books Friday night, Jan. 21.

A capacity crowd was on hand, the atmosphere was electric, and no one demanded the price of admission be returned.

When the smoke cleared, Ty Greene knocked home two free throws with 11.4 second remaining and the Bearden Bulldog defense held resolute down to the final seconds.

Bearden’s boys (20-1, 8-1) claimed a pulsating 59-56 District 4-AAA triumph over the homestanding Rebels in a game in which the two teams slugged it out for the entire 32 minutes, neither giving an inch.

“I told Rico [White], ‘I’m going to make these for you,’” Greene said. “I didn’t have as great a game offensively as I wanted to. I was trying to get my teammates involved and win at all costs. They’re a great team, and it’s a war every time we play them.”

Bearden head coach Mark Blevins said that this district was as tough as any in the state east of Memphis, and the battle between the two juggernauts proved him correct.

“Our league is very competitive, year-in and year-out,” Blevins said. ”We had a great transition game in the second quarter. We weren’t able to capitalize on it as much in the second half.

“We were both wearing each other down,” he added. “They have a deep bench, and they’re good. Rico had a great game. We had to go to the zone because we were in serious foul trouble, just like they were.”

West’s girls (18-1, 9-1), losers at Bearden (8-10, 4-5) earlier in the season, controlled the game from the start, dominating when they had to. The final tally was 53-38.

The Lady Rebels got 23 points inside from Alexus Patterson and 13 on the wing from Gracia Alonso De Armino to take the decision.

No one expected either of the boys teams to run away and hide, given the intensity displayed in the previous two games between the two neighborhood rivals. Bearden led by 12 at 29-17 in the second quarter, but the Rebels closed to 32-28 at halftime, and it was a nip-and-tuck battle the rest of the way.

Bearden seemed to be hanging on at times in the fourth quarter, but got exceptional plays from White, who had a game-high 18 points and seemed to be in the right place at the right time when things were most critical. Drew Standifer added 13 and was a force inside.

“You have to keep playing,” White said, after apparently cramping during the final frantic seconds. “You can’t think about it in this game. It was a very tough game. They have great depth, and they kept playing.”

Bearden recovered from losing nearly all of its 12-point first half lead to go ahead 49-42 after three quarters. 

It was one of those games where every possession had portent written all over it, as the intensity level seem to build second-by-second, minute-by-minute.

Even when Carson Brooks, who had 11 points for the Rebels, fouled out at the 5:07 mark of the fourth period with Bearden leading, West still had a great deal of fight left.

Rallying behind eight points from Jayquan Mitchell, off a game total of 14, the Rebels forged a tie at 52-52.

Greene gave the Bulldogs a lead that was stretched to three when White knocked home a free throw.

Calvin Walker (11 points) and Phillip Stanford (14 points) then scored consecutive baskets to give West a 56-55 lead inside the final minutes.

White and Green then made four pressure-packed free throws to give the Bulldogs the lead, and Bearden defenders did the rest.

In the girls’ game, West avenged an earlier loss to Bearden’s Lady Bulldogs, jumping to a 25-13 halftime lead and not looking back.

“They’re a hard matchup,” BHS head coach Richard Cowan said. “You have to give it to our kids, they fought and scrapped their guts out all night long, every one of them. I’m really proud of that. West played much better than when we played them at our place.

“Patterson hurt us on the block early. She showed us something a little different tonight,” Cowan added. “They have some good athletes. They have quickness on the outside and strength on the inside. That’s why they’re 18-1.”

Patterson, who had only four points in the earlier game, established her presence at both ends of the court, giving the Lady Bulldogs severe matchup problems.

“She was at the top of her game tonight,” said BHS senior post Priscilla Craig, who battled Patterson inside. “We need to get stronger in the post area and be ready to guard. There are a bunch of other good big players in this league.”

That was compounded by Alonso De Armino’s improvement from seven points in the first game to 13 tonight. Bearden had no real answer for either player.

Bearden fought the good fight against considerable odds, led by 12 points from Mallory Uekman and 10 from Jai-Jai McLaughlin.

“We had to work so hard to shut down the inside that their shots were open,” Uekman said. ”It was like a toss-up, either get to them outside or the inside due to our height disadvantage.”


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