There are times when Bradley McCurdy can be the unknown factor on Bradley Central’s basketball team.
“Sometimes I don’t know what he’s going to do and sometimes I don’t think he knows what he’s going to do,” Bears coach Chuck Clark said.
One thing is for sure.
McCurdy knows what to do with the basketball.
The sophomore point guard scored a game-high 19 points and sparked two key runs in Bradley Central’s 65-50 victory over East Hamilton on Tuesday to remain unbeaten in District 5-AAA.
Coupled with Cleveland’s win over Ooltewah, the Bears (10-7, 6-0) now have a two-game lead over the Blue Raiders (8-5, 4-2) and Owls (10-6, 4-2) in the district standings.
In the girls game, Bradley Central had no trouble in routing the Lady Hurricanes, 63-33, behind the 23-point effort of senior Brooke Copeland, who will play collegiately next season at the University of Florida.
McCurdy awoke the Bears’ offensively after the Hurricanes (5-11, 3-3) took a quick 5-0 lead on Quinn Griffith’s field goal and Kenny Bunton’s 3 from the left wing.
Bunton led the Hurricanes with 17 points.
McCurdy drilled a 3 from the wing and dropped in two free throws to tie the game, those scores triggering a 15-3 run that opened a 15-8 lead. McCurdy capped the spree with a steal and driving layup at the 1:14 mark of the first period.
“I felt like I was scoring well,” McCurdy said. “Mostly I was just trying to help my team win so we could go 6-0 in district and keep it going. If I score back-to-back I sense that I can keep scoring more.”
East Hamilton got a bucket from Tracy Thompson and milked the clock – freshman guard Mac Brower looked twice at the clock ticking down before launching a buzzer-beating 3 – to pull within two points and the first break.
East Hamilton, which now turns its attention to hosting the second Scenic City Showcase on Thursday through Saturday, tied the game at 20-all two minutes into the second quarter, only to see the Bears score 12 of the next 14 points to grab a 32-22 halftime lead.
Taylor Bentley started the run with a bucket and two free throws, Daniel Clark added a free throw and McCurdy nailed a 3 and putback 20 seconds apart and Bentley made a layup at the buzzer to give the Bears a 32-22 halftime lead.
McCurdy’s putback was necessary because he missed a point-blank layup, but grabbed the ball and tipped it in while surrounded by East Hamilton players.
“While he’s our floor general, he’s just goofy enough to screw up, but somehow it comes back to benefit him,” Clark said. “Like that play under the goal. For a sophomore he’s a heady player and kept us in the first half.”
East Hamilton coach Michael Stone wasn’t all that thrilled to watch smaller Bradley players like McCurdy out-hustle and out-rebound his taller Hurricanes on the offensive boards.
“We knew what McCurdy was capable of doing,” Stone said, “and I don’t want to take away from what he does because he’s a good ballplayer. The frustrating thing is to watch a kid of his stature outplay us in the paint.
“You watch 5-11 and 6-foot kids out-rebounding our kids that are 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 or 6-6, that’s frustrating. We’ve preached toughness since March. Tonight the tougher team won the game and won it handily.”
Mac Brower’s driving layup trimmed the Bears’ lead to 35-26.
McCurdy made 1 of 2 free throws and Bunton’s right-wing 3-pointer over Sam Gregory cut the Hurricanes’ deficit to 36-29.
Within a 40-second span, McCurdy drove past defenders for aggressive layups, Bentley added a layup, dropped in a baseline jumper and a jumper from the lane for his only points of the game and Bentley capped a 12-0 run that gave Bradley -- which has won four in a row -- its biggest lead of the game at 48-29.
Tucker Maroon started the Bears’ fourth-quarter scoring with a 3 from the left corner to extend the lead to 51-32, but the Hurricanes hacked eight points off the deficit, including a 3 by Jordan Wingard.
Gregory’s bucket and Clark’s three-point play gave the Bears a 56-40 cushion with 4:44 remaining.
Thompson scored to cut Bradley’s advantage to 61-48, but Cox hit a field goal from the left corner and McCurdy got a steal near midcourt and drove for another layup to push the lead out to 65-48.
Brower hit two free throws to end the game.
“I told the kids before the game that we were 5-0 in the district and nobody expected us to be here,” Clark said. “We were picked fifth in the district, so let’s put another feather in our hat tonight. I like my team and we can do so many different things with these kids.”
Bentley finished with 12 points and Clark added 10 for the Bears.
It was the sixth loss in last seven games for East Hamilton and only one has been less than 15 points – that a five-point setback against Childersburg, Ala., in the Holiday Classic in Monticello, Ky. Exclude that game and East Hamilton’s other six losses were by an average margin of 21.6 points.
“Part of it is our youth,” Stone said. “We only have three returning varsity players from last year’s team. That’s a good excuse for three games. But 16 games into the season everybody is experienced. It’s got-check time for us right now.”
In the girls game, Copeland scored 14 of her 26 points in the first quarter when the Bearettes (13-5, 5-1) built a commanding 24-5 lead. She had 18 points at halftime and added eight points in the third period before giving way to a wave of reserve players.
Copeland, a 6-1 post, made three of the Bearettes’ seven 3s.
Halle Hughes added 11 points for Bradley.
“We came out shooting well and Brooke had the hot hand early,” Bearettes coach Jason Reuter said. “It was a good overall performance. I don’t want many games like this, but you need a few. All 13 girls played and that’s a good thing, although we went a little stagnant there until late in the game.”
Rhyne Howard led the Lady Hurricanes (2-15, 0-6) with 12 points and Maggie Woods finished with 10.
“I see an upside to the team,” East Hamilton coach Derek Morris said. “We are improving.”
Bradley Central 15 17 16 17 – 65
East Hamilton 13 9 10 18 – 50
Bradley Central (65) – McGowan, Daniel Clark 10, Copeland 9, Maroon 3, Taylor Bentley 12, Bradley McCurdy 19, Gregory 3, Cox 5, Morgan, Crisp 4, Ware.
East Hamilton (50) – Thompson 6, Lowery 7, Sparks, Kenny Bunton 17, Wright 8, Wingard 3, Griffith 2, Brower 7, Beach.
3-Point Goals: Bradley Central 5 (McCurdy 2, Copeland, Maroon, Cox); East Hamilton 6 (Bunton 2, Wright 2, Wingard, Brower).
Bradley Central 24 9 18 12 – 63
East Hamilton 5 2 13 13 – 33
Bradley Central (63) – Hubbard, Halle Hughes 11, K. Brown, E. Brown 3, Gaither 6, Stallings 3, Brooke Copeland 26, Delane, Summars 6, Reuter 8, Brumfield, McKee.
East Hamilton (33) – Pettit, Maggie Woods 10, Caudle, Stovall 2, Rhyne Howard 12, Denton, Wood 4, Zackery, Blade, Giles 3, Zeh 2, Maston.
3-Point Goals: Bradley Central 7 (Copeland 3, Summars 2, E. Brown, Stallings); East Hamilton 4 (Woods 2, Howard, Giles).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)