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Battle of big men goes East’s way versus Dawgs

This game was much too good for a Thursday night in early December, the rematch between Bearden (4-3) and Morristown East (3-2) from the 2011 sub-state game.

It really needed to have been played in front of a packed gym in late February, when both teams were hitting their stride before tournament time came around.

Regardless, the contest between the youthful Bulldogs and the grizzled vets from Morristown, a team missing its starting point guard due to injury, suggests the teams might see each other again down the road.

On this night, Dec. 1, the Hurricanes won 66-58 behind a dominating, and that’s putting it mildly, performance from post player Aaron Wheeler, who went over, under, and through Bearden defenders for 42 points, 28 in the second half.

Wheeler was a man among boys, seemingly unstoppable.

“We battled, and I’m proud of them,” BHS head coach Mark Blevins said. “We have a ways to go. We have one veteran player, and we have to hope everybody else grows up. We got beat by a better team tonight. That will help us a lot going into district play. Wheeler has good length and can really play. Drew [Standifer] came back strong tonight after being injured against Fulton.”

As the game wound down, Wheeler escaped Bearden defensive pressure for a couple of resounding dunks that capped the moment for the Hurricanes.

East, which led most of the 2011 sub-state game before falling to a late Bearden rally, appeared to learn from that game, never flinching when the Bulldogs made a move.

On the Bearden side, Standifer was likewise impressive, racking up 26 points that included a couple of three-pointers. Standifer was limited by a couple of early fouls, three at the half, but still showed the ability to put his team on his back and carry them through rough places.

“Their defense really closed in, and it was hard to get the ball inside,” Standifer said. “They’re better than last year. I played against Wheeler in AAU, and he drove to the basket more. It’s a hard adjustment for the young players. We have to get more offensive and defensive rebounds.”

It was nip-and-tuck for much of the night, with the game tied at the quarter break and East leading by three at the half.

East had a surge, 9-0 at one point in the third quarter, that helped get the lead to 51-38. Wheeler scored all 15 of his team’s points in the third quarter and added 13 in the fourth, but Bearden fought back gamely to cut the lead to six at one critical juncture late in the game.

Daquan Wright added 12 points to the Bearden attack, but the Wheeler-Standifer show took center stage. “We’re young,” he said. “It’s a learning experience. Wheeler was by far their hottest player. He just got in a groove.”

Bearden rebounded from this loss to edge Austin-East on the road 61-58 Friday, Dec. 2. 


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