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Blevins’ state habit
Dawgs defeat East, head to program’s 7th state tourney

The final score may have ended up Bearden 60 Morristown East 47, in a Class AAA sectional contest at the Bearden gym, but at one critical juncture in the second quarter Morristown East led 28-17.

Worried looks were emanating from the Bulldogs faithful all around the gym. 

The prize was a trip to next week’s state tournament, and the Bulldogs had come too far to let the dream of another trip to Murfreesboro get away — seventh state trip in program history — although East held the Bulldogs’ feet to the fire for nearly 30 minutes. 

There had been concerns expressed about Bearden’s ability to overcome a double-digit deficit, given they’ve experienced so few of them over the season.

But these Bulldogs (33-2) are resourceful and poised and showed the moxie that has been their calling card all season.

“We started playing our style of basketball,” Rico White said of the turnaround, “getting up and down the floor and getting easy lay-ups, getting points before they could set up their defense.

"I wanted to seal the game for my team and get ready for state.”

Just when you imagined them down for the count, the Bulldogs ran off eight consecutive points to end the first half (trailing by three) and worked hard to lead by four (44-39) at the third quarter break.

“They came ready to play,” BHS head coach Mark Blevins said of the Hurricanes' effort.

He had warned that East would get after the Bulldogs from the opening tip. “What hurt us were the two kids that never score for them who had 20 between them at the half.”

The culprits were JonMichael Samsel and Antonio Miranda, who hurt the Bulldogs inside and out early.

But the pair managed only six points between them after intermission.

“Drew [Standifer] and Rico were getting lost guarding them,” Blevins said. “We did a decent job on their main scorers.

“We got a little more gumption about us in the second quarter and cut it down,” he added. “We came out after the half, had a couple of successful plays to get us in the lead, and tried to maintain it. Their defensive pressure was really good against us.”

The Bulldogs had huffed and puffed their way through much of the first half before the run that closed the margin.

Spencer Peake got the ball rolling inside, followed by a Ty Greene lay-up off a steal, a Peake free throw and a three-point play by Greene.

The Bulldogs ran off a 13-4 margin to start the third quarter to lead 38-30, but saw the Hurricanes close it to 38-36 before Greene knocked home another three-pointer.

The fourth quarter was played with state tournament-like intensity, with White, Deon Fair and Standifer leading the way with a 10-4 spurt and an East timeout at the 3:54 mark.

Greene, who played the entirety of the fourth quarter with four fouls, and White were 4-for-5 from the line to help keep East at bay.

Greene, a whirling dervish all night, led the way with 24 points, followed by White with 18.

Each of them had eight in the third quarter and combined for 12 in the fourth stanza.

A 16-8 fourth quarter brought Bulldog fans to their feet more than once as the good guys pumped up the intensity and made the requisite plays that led to the 13-point win.

“The most important thing is to stay calm,” Greene said. “You have to keep sticking to the gameplan, keep running your offense, and good things are going to happen.”

Standifer had nine points and nine rebounds and was a man possessed in the critical mass that was action under the basket.

“Overall, I’m thankful,” Blevins said. “I’ve been so easy on them because you’re afraid of injuries.

“We’re going to have to go back and start working hard,” he added. “We just didn’t execute very well. We were very, very soft. I haven’t been physical with them. We’re going to practice real hard the rest of this week.”

The Bulldogs increased the defensive intensity after halftime, outscoring the Hurricanes 35-19, allowing just seven field goals and no threes after intermission.


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