Bradley Central discovered Wednesday that Baylor can put a hurting on an opposing high school basketball team.
Clay Born and Reggie Upshaw keyed first- and second-half runs and powered the Red Raiders past the visiting Bears, 71-49, at James C. Duke Arena to avenge a 40-point blowout at Bradley Central on Jan. 22.
“We talked about that game all week,” said Born, who finished with a game-high 29 points, including eight 3s, one shy of his personal best. “We wanted to get back at them and we were psyched when we walked on the court.”
Born, the beneficiary of Bradley Central’s extra attention paid inside to the 6-foot-7-inch Upshaw, scored 13 consecutive points – he made four straight 3s igniting the spurt and added a free throw – to wipe out the Bears’ early 9-7 lead.
In a span of 2 minutes, 17 seconds, Born gave the Red Raiders (11-7) a 20-9 lead. Bradley’s Taylor Bentley hit a 3 with 38.7 seconds left in the opening quarter to stop the Bears’ scoring drought.
“We’re trying to get up and down the floor better, they lost him in transition and he’s a fine shooter,” Baylor coach Austin Clark said. “He needs space and when he gets it he does a fine job shooting it.”
Over his four years at Baylor under the tutelage of Clark, a shooting phenom at Roane County High School in Kingston and later at the University of Tennessee, Born has improved on a quick release and that only added to the Bears’ frustration in trying to defend the Red Raiders’ sharpshooter.
“The 3 is my favorite shot on the court,” Born said. “Coach Clark has worked with me and helped me to get my shot off quicker. He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen.”
Bradley Central coach Kent Smith, in his 17th year with the Bears, admitted Born was a thorn in his team’s side, but credited Upshaw’s return to the lineup with making a huge difference in the two games between the Bears and Red Raiders.
“What Upshaw’s presence does is force help down low,” Smith said. “If you don’t help low, he’ll take you one-on-one. We were helping the wrong guy and lost Born way too many times. They play a lot more confident with Reggie in the lineup.”
Bradley’s Daniel Clark hit a bucket to start the second quarter, cutting Baylor’s lead to 20-14, but Upshaw, playing his third game since returning from a fractured foot, took over the scoring from that point.
Upshaw drilled a turnaround baseline jumper, dropped in a layup and after his younger brother, Gage, made a bucket off a feed from – you guessed it, Reggie – the talented senior made another layup.
That run gave Baylor a 28-16 lead.
Born hit his fifth 3 of the opening half, Reggie Upshaw scored six straight points and Matt Clendenen’s put-back goal stretched the Red Raiders’ lead to 37-18. When Born hit another 3 from the top of the arc off a pass from Upshaw, Baylor strolled into halftime with a 42-23 cushion.
“I knew it was going to be a good night when (Born) got hot,” said Upshaw, who finished with 18 points. “When he’s hitting shots we can all play our roles. His role tonight was hitting 3s.”
Eight days earlier, the Bears humiliated Baylor in an 88-48 demolition derby in which Bradley remarkably made its first 16 shots, including six 3s. The Bears shot 69 percent (22-of-32) from the floor and 68 percent (11-of-16) from 3-point distance in the game.
“It seemed like they were shooting in the ocean,” said Upshaw, who watched the game in street clothes. “Everything they put up went in.”
Clark was impressed, too.
“Kent was talking before the game tonight that in all his years at Bradley he’s never had a team shoot like that,” Clark said. “They were like 18-of-20 at halftime. That happens sometimes if you’re in this long enough. I’ve been in it long enough, and I saw it.”
Wednesday’s game was a different story.
The Bears (13-9), who are battling Ooltewah and Cleveland for the No. 1 seed in the District 5-AAA tournament, tried to get things turned around in the third quarter.
Logan Cox connected on a 3 from the right wing to cut Baylor’s lead to 49-38. A few seconds later, Bradley turned the ball over and Born made them pay with five straight points to give the Bears a 54-38 lead going into the fourth period.
“We cut the lead to 11, turn the ball over and lose Born again,” Smith said. “He hit a 3 and it’s a 14-point game. They were just way better than us tonight.”
Baylor’s Jeff Bowens and Sam Lupas – both playing in reserve roles – hit a baseline floater and a tip, respectively, to start the final quarter.
Again, however, Baylor sledgehammered the Bears with a 13-0 run – Born had five points and Upshaw four – and built a 67-42 advantage with 2:54 left.
Clendenen joined Born and Upshaw in double-figure scoring with 10 points.
Cox led Bradley Central, which saw its eight-game winning streak end, with 15 points on five 3-pointers.
Bradley Central girls 56, Baylor 31: The Lady Bears went on a 12-0 run to start the second quarter – Kaylan Withrow had eight points in the spree – to break a 6-6 tie and take control of Wednesday’s first varsity game.
Brooke Copeland led Bradley Central (20-2) with a game-high 20 points. Withrow added 14 points and Whitney Donaldson finished with 10.
Freshman Abby Hubert paced Baylor (11-10) with nine points.
Bradley Central 6 14 18 18 – 56
Baylor 6 4 12 9 – 31
Bradley Central (56) – Kaylan Withrow 14, Whitney Donaldson, Whitted 6, Brooke Copeland 20, Thompson 6, Davis, Carroll, Stallings, Delane, Hill, Pinnenger.
Baylor (31) – Clemons 6, Huckabay 3, Kaufman 3, Hubert 9, Long 4, Popp 6.
3-Point Goals – Bradley Central 5 (Withrow 3, Donaldson 2); Baylor 3 (Huckabay, Kaufman, Long).
Bradley Central 12 11 15 11 – 49
Baylor 20 22 12 17 – 71
Bradley Central (49) – Clark 2, Copeland 8, Logan Cox 15, Bentley 6, Terrell 3, Cain 8, Whitmire 7, McCurdy, McGowan, Morgan.
Baylor (71) – Reggie Upshaw 18, Clay Born 29, Matt Clendenen 10, G. Upshaw 8, Lupas 6, Bowens, Maum, Seaberg, Giussani.
3-Point Goals – Bradley Central 7 (Cox 5, Copeland, Terrell); Baylor 8 (Born 8).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)