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Dawgs barely short in 1st hoops state title game


MURFREESBORO — It's hard to imagine that during its first 50 seasons of boys varsity basketball, Bearden High School produced more losses than wins (643-651).

Then came head coach Mark Blevins and five state tournament appearances between 1995 and 2010, building arguably the most successful Class AAA basketball program from Chattanooga to Bristol to Cookeville (472-116).

Blevins’ state trip No. 6, and the program's first-ever state championship, proved elusive, however, as Craigmont (33-5) held on late with free throws — and was aided by two late Bulldogs turnovers.

“The best defensive team won tonight, that's what it really got down to,” BHS head coach Mark Blevins said of Craigmont's 61-55 victory in the TSSAA Class AAA BlueCross Basketball Championship game at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center Saturday evening, March 19.

A five-point first quarter Bearden lead gave way to defense in addition to clutch shooting, depth and overall quickness from the Memphis-based champs.

“We weren't able to get over their picks very well. They got a lot of easy shots, whereas we were working for everything that we got,” Blevins added. “Of course, their pressure forced us into [where] maybe we were playing in fifth gear sometimes when we need to slow down and try to run something.


“Defensively, they took us out of our pace, really.”

Ty Greene, senior wing who led Bearden (35-3) with 18 points, said Craigmont was “very quick defensively, they had a great defensive scheme, good help team.

“Like coach said, the better defensive team won.”

Rico White, Bulldogs senior wing who scored 13, said the Chiefs “beat us to every loose ball. … We usually beat people like that, getting to loose balls.”

Dion Fair, senior point guard, added 12. White, Greene and Fair were named all-tourney.

Leading 20-15 after one quarter, 31-30 at halftime but trailing 49-46 after three quarters, the Bulldogs cut a five-point Chiefs fourth-quarter advantage to 57-55 late and twice had chances in the final 70 seconds to tie or lead following two blown CHS lay-ups.

But a missed three-point jumper and consecutive turnovers — both on lost balls off the dribble in the final 47 seconds — gave Craigmont a chance to seal the game at the foul line. The Chiefs went 4-of-4 at the stripe in the final 43.9 to secure the title.

“To God be the glory that we got here,” Blevins said.

Fair said, “I love every one of these seniors on this team,” which also includes forwards Will Winton and Spencer Peake and guard Austin Weida.

“I don't like this feeling at all,” Fair added. “But we're a family and we're going to stay a family.”

White said, “I feel like I let a lot of people down back home. I'm sorry we couldn't bring [the state title] back home to Knoxville.”

Despite four problems, BHS junior post Drew Standifer proved effective defending and rebounding during the tourney.

 

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