HVA girls surprise Bearden

KNOXVILLE — Paige Gentry scored just two points Friday night, but her basket was the biggest in a crucial District 4-AAA game.

Gentry, Hardin Valley Academy’s junior guard, buried a layup as time expired to lift the Lady Hawks past Bearden 64-62 before a packed and spirited house at BHS.

“This just feels amazing,” Gentry said after she knocked down a short shot to give HVA the victory at the buzzer and knock the Lady Bulldogs from the ranks of the unbeaten. “I knew that we had limited time left and I wanted to get a shot up before the clock ran out.

“They’re a very good team and it feels great to come here and get a win.”

Her aim was true and her game-winning bucket helped the Lady Hawks improve to 17-5 overall and 9-2 in the district. The Hardin Valley students stormed the floor to congratulate their girls basketball team, which snapped Bearden’s 19-game season-opening winning streak.

With the victory, the Lady Hawks avenged an earlier home loss to the Lady Bulldogs this season.

HVA head coach Jennifer Galloway said that she and her team were more than comfortable when Gentry had the ball in her hands.

“Paige knows that we have confidence in her,” Galloway said. “It was huge for us to come here and get a win. Bearden is a great team.

“They’re well-respected throughout the state and their record speaks for itself.”

The game was tightly contested all night with the Lady Bulldogs (19-1, 10-1) holding a 17-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

The two squads slugged through an even second stanza and Bearden led 35-32 at halftime.

The Lady Bulldogs, who have offensive weapons all over the floor, again boasted a balanced attack, especially in the first half. Trinity Lee, who finished the contest with 16 points, scored 11 before the break. Jalia Arnwine scored six and Tytiaira Spikes each score six points over the first 16 minutes and center Grace van Rij had eight in the first half.

Bearden head coach Justin Underwood was pleased with his team’s offense but said defense and free throw shooting led to the demise of his squad on this night.

“Credit Hardin Valley. They came in here with a game plan and they did a good job executing it,” Underwood said. “I was really pleased with our offense but free throws and defense were what really cost us this game.

“Hardin Valley did a good job and we shot 48 percent from the free throw line and you just can’t do that. They did a good job getting to the boards and to the loose balls. We probably let them do a better job of that than we should have.”

The Lady Hawks, who had four players post double figures in the scoring column, battled back to take a 54-51 lead by third quarter’s end. But HVA had three turnovers in its first three possessions of the final frame. Bearden sliced the Lady Hawks advantage to 54-53 when van Rij knocked down a pair of foul shots with 5 minutes, 55 seconds remaining.

Hardin Valley went up 58-53 a short time later when Symphony Buxton, who finished with 11 points, hit an inside shot with 4:44 left.

From there, Bearden struggled from the foul line and HVA opened a 60-54 advantage when Bekah Hampton scored with just over four minutes to play. Hampton and Abbey Cornelius each had 17 points to lead the Lady Hawks while Lizzie Davis finished with 16.

The roller-coaster ride continued as the Lady Bulldogs clawed their way back; Bearden knotted things at 62 on a free throw from van Rij, who scored 13 points, with 7.2 seconds left. That set the stage for Gentry’s buzzer beater.

Davis was obviously happy after the game.

“It’s always good to win,” she said. “It’s good to win any time but this one is really big.

“Bearden is such a great and well-coached team and we came over here and played the best game that we could.”