CLEVELAND, Tenn. – In hindsight, it was appropriate that Siegel boys basketball coach Ben Dotson was dressed somewhat like an undertaker on his bench Monday night.
The visiting Stars, ensuring their sixth trip to the TSSAA boys state tournament in the school's 10-year history, handed the host Bradley Central Bears a rare home beatdown in their Class AAA substate contest. The Bears had seven missed field goals and two turnovers before they scored, and never got going in a 59-38 defeat before a big crowd in Jim Smiddy Arena.
“Bradley Central is one of the best-coached teams in the state. Kent Smith does a great job,” praised Dotson, who lost to the Bears in double-overtime last year in this round. “You can watch all the film you want, but it's hard to imitate our speed in practice. You can know what we do and try to prepare for it.”
“We play Cleveland and Ooltewah, so we play teams with speed,” said Smith. “What Siegel does is finish. They're a downhill team, and they don't play around with it.
“We knew we were going to have to get out to a really good start,” Smith added.
When Caleb Cain, one of Bradley's three seniors, broke the ice with 4:24 left in the quarter, Siegel was only up 4-2. But the Bears, whose inside game was literally pushed outside by Siegel's versatile big men, Daman Clark and John A. Simpson, never got closer than 6-5 on a Taylor Bentley 3-pointer.
Particularly damaging was Dominique Gooch this night. He scored Siegel's first six points en route to a team-best 17, but his ability to take the ball to the hole put him in position to claim 13 rebounds as well. He was also an equal part of Siegel's 15 offensive rebounds, only four less than Bradley's total number of boards.
The Bears trailed by only three after a period, but the game got totally away from them at the onset of the second quarter. Back-to-back dunks by Charles Clark and Damian Cl ark were the creamy center of an 11-0 cookie to begin the period.
Departing senior Brice Copeland finally warmed and hit a pair of 3s in the period, but they were to be Bradley's only field goals in the quarter as Siegel doubled the Bears, 34-17, at intermission. Their biggest lead came late in the third quarter at 25, 51-26 at the end of another 12-3 surge.
For the Stars (28-5) Gooch also had three steals, as the Stars' speed made up for shortcoming in a number of areas Monday, including winning the boards battle 41-19. Forced outside, the Bears hit only one more two-pointer than triples (7-6) and hit only 21 percent of their 3-pointers.
Ryan Jones was also in double figures for the Stars, scoring 15. Bentley led the Bears with 12 points.
“All you need to know about this team is that we graduated seven seniors last year, and won our region championship with only two experienced players,” Smith said proudly. “Let the negative people have their negative say. I will not remember this season as anything other than a positive.”
Siegel 12 22 17 8 – 59
Bradley Central 9 8 9 12 – 38
SIEGEL (59) – C. Clark 4, Trice, Dominique Gooch 17, Ryan Jones 15, Martin 4, McBee, Simpson 4, Steward 2, Burton 5, Roberts, D. Clark 8.
BRADLEY CENTRAL (38) – McGowan, Clark 7, Copeland 8, Cox, Taylor Bentley 12, Terrell, Crisp, McCurdy 3, Cain 2, Maroon, Whitmire 6.
3-point goals: Siegel 2 (Burton, Gooch); Bradley 6 (Bentley 2, Copeland 2 Clark, McCurdy). Records: Siegel 28-5, Bradley Central 19-13.