MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Bradley Central’s Bearettes prepared extensively for Memphis Ridgeway’s man-to-man defense.
They got mostly zone.
The Bearettes figured to have an edge on the boards, as has been the case all season.
Ridgeway won that battle, too.
The Lady Roadrunners’ zone defense limited Bradley Central to 23 points over the final three quarters and the Bearettes came up short, 53-45, in the TSSAA Class AAA state tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at the Murphy Center at Middle Tennessee State University.
“This team was hanging off the cliff in the (previous) two games, but we always we found ways to win both of them,” Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter said. “Today, we just ran out of luck.”
Bradley captured its fourth straight Region 3-AAA tournament title by rallying to beat Cumberland County, 76-72, on back-to-back baskets by freshman Emma Kate Brown.
In last weekend’s Sectional at home, Rebecca Reuter, the coach’s daughter, hit an 8-foot bank shot with 4.6 seconds left to oust Oakland and earn a berth in this year’s state tournament.
Ridgeway (29-3) advances to the semifinals and will play Rossview at 10 a.m. Central Time. Rossview (28-3) knocked off Morristown West (30-4), 52-47, in overtime behind Janie White’s game-high 24 points. White intends to play college ball at Brown in the Ivy League.
The most touted teams in the Class AAA tournament – nationally ranked No. 1 Blackman and Mt. Juliet – they have a combined 61-2 record – will clash in the other semifinal.
Blackman (32-1) beat Houston, 52-38, and Mt. Juliet (29-1) took out Jefferson County, 65-37, after leading 36-8 at halftime.
The day, which started so well, ended with the Bearettes’ second straight one-and-done in the state tourney. While making their 27th appearance at state, the Bearettes wound up with another disappointing outcome to end their season at 26-6. A late-season 16-game winning streak went up in smoke.
“Ridgeway has a good chance to win that second-round game,” Jason Reuter said. “They can be in the state finals. If we rebound a little better, that could have been the Bearettes.”
The Bearettes, making their first back-to-back appearances since legendary coach Jim Smiddy did it in 1986-87 and playing in their 63rd state tourney game overall, started off well with senior post Brooke Copeland scored 13 of the team’s 22 first-quarter points that included a pair of 3s, for a 22-15 lead.
In fact, Copeland was in on a lot of action even before the opening tip.
Ridgeway was slapped with a technical foul because Oreonna Brown’s name was not in the scorebook. Copeland hit one free throw after she was ordered back to the locker room by game officials to take off a white T-shirt that was underneath her game jersey.
“They said the shirt had gray stitching,” said Copeland, shrugging in disbelief.
Unfortunately, Bradley, which hasn’t won a state tournament game since 2000, could not maintain the quick getaway and scored just 23 points over the final three periods. The Bearettes shot 52 percent in the first half, a miserly 15 percent (3 of 20) in the second half.
“They adjusted their defense,” Reuter said, “to a front-set 2-3 zone and then went to a 2-1-2. We hit some shots early, but they outscored us by six in the third quarter and didn’t play our best basketball in the fourth.
“That third quarter was a disturbing trend.”
Switching defenses appeared to even surprise Ridgeway coach Rhonda Kendall, who brought the Lady Roadrunners from nothing to the state semifinals in three short years.
“We came here to play man defense,” said Kendall, the former women’s coach at Lane College in Jackson. “But Bradley did such a great job against us early offensively and I had some girls in foul trouble, so I had to do something different.”
The 6-foot-2-inch Copeland and 6-3 Reuter, who now can begin in earnest their preparations to begin Division I college careers at Florida and Middle Tennessee State, respectively, once again paced the Bearettes, who are 114-17 in their four years with the Bearettes – coach Reuter has the same record and next year will direct Bradley for the first time without his vaunted “Twin Towers.”
The pair also teamed up to make 12 of 15 free throws.
Copeland had 21 points and eight rebounds. Reuter added 15 points and 10 boards and the two combined to make 11 of 27 field goals and pull down 18 of Bradley’s 31 rebounds – Ridgeway, with Ashley Jackson and Eryn Foster claiming 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively – wound up with 35 boards.
The rest of the Bearettes who played turned in a collective 3 for 11 shooting.
Brandi Beasley led Ridgeway with 17 points and Foster added 12.
Ridgeway made just two more field goals – 16 to 14 – than Bradley, but the Lady Roadrunners went 20 of 27 from the free-throw line, including 9 of 11 in the fourth quarter. They had a six-point edge from the stripe over Bradley.
Foster was dynamite on the glass, pulling down 10 rebounds, including six on the defensive end. Ashley Jackson had 12 rebounds, seven offensively, where the Lady Roadrunners built their four-rebound edge.
After the first quarter, the Ridgeway zone knocked the Bearettes slightly out of sync and the shots started clanging off the rim instead of swishing through the net.
“We expected their pressure man because we saw that on every film we looked at,” Rebecca Reuter said. “The zone just threw us off.”
Right after Ridgeway went to a 2-3 zone defense, Reuter scored on a putback and Brown made a free throw with 3:18 left in the second period and the Bearettes had a 28-21 lead and were playing with confidence.
Inexplicably, Bradley lost its shooting touch, going 6 minutes and 40 seconds without a point in a stretch that went halfway through the third quarter.
Foster nailed two free throws – she was 8 for 8 from the line in the game – while Jackson and Beasley each made one to pull Ridgeway within 28-25 going into the fourth period.
The Bearettes were still coming up empty.
The Lady Roadrunners extended the game-changing run to 10-0 and had a 32-28 advantage with 5:18 left.
“We still had a chance,” coach Reuter said.
Copeland ended the Bearettes’ long drought with a three-point play – a layup and free throw after being fouled by Berounna Humphrey.
Ridgeway’s Jackson countered with a free-throw jumper and Foster made a layup to put Bradley down 36-31.
Reuter drained two free throws.
Foster made a pair.
Bradley’s Halle Hughes dared to drive into the belly of Ridgeway’s defense and made a layup. The Bearettes trailed 38-35 after three quarters.
Copeland two free throws and Reuter added one, tying the game at 38-all 54 seconds deep into the final period.
Beasley’s putback broke the tie.
Reuter made one of two free tosses.
Foster dumped in two.
Reuter was on the mark twice and Bradley trailed 42-40.
Foster’s putback stretched the lead to four points.
Reuter cut it in half with two freebies.
Tieraney Paylor made a layup at the 2:19 mark. On the play Reuter picked up her fifth foul and went to the bench.
Brown was errant on two free throws.
Foster again made a pair for a 48-44 lead.
Bradley was in distress.
Copeland’s layup alleviated some of the pain, but Beasley’s free throws pushed Ridgeway’s lead to 50-44 with 38.1 seconds on the clock. Copeland’s free throw was Bradley’s final point.
Beasley made one toss and Alexus Bryson added two.
Bradley was done.
Throughout the fourth quarter Ridgeway slowed the pace of the game on each possession, once running the clock down from 1:46 to 51.1. The Lady Roadrunners probably ran close to half the quarter off the clock with its spread tactic on offense.
“Their guards are quick and there was nothing fancy about it,” coach Reuter said. “It was just kept away and when we fouled them they made their free throws.”
CLASS AAA SUMMARIES
Memphis Ridgeway 15 10 13 15 – 53
Bradley Central 22 6 7 10 – 45
Memphis Ridgeway (53) – Brandi Beasley 17, Bryson 2, Paylor 9, Humphrey 2, Eryn Foster 12, Barr, Jackson 7, Hillard, Boone, Brown 4.
Bradley Central (45) – Brown 1, Stallings, Brooke Copeland 21, Summars 2, Rebecca Reuter 15, Hughes 6, Davis.
3-Point Goals – Memphis Ridgeway 1 (Beasley), Bradley Central 3 (Copeland 2, Hughes).
Rossview 9 15 10 11 7 – 52
Morristown West 15 6 13 11 2 – 47
Rossview (52) – Ashley Powers 12, Janie White 24, Croom 4, Fisher 6, Head 2, Pace 4, Quinio, Harrison.
Morristown West (47) – Shultz 4, Seals 5, Potts 8, Sidney Newsome 17, Simerly 4, Williams 5, Brown, Cody, Zimmerman 4.
3-Point Goals – Rossview 6 (Powers 3, White 3), Morristown West 4 (Seals, Potts, Newsome, Williams).
Jefferson County 6 2 13 16 – 37
Mt. Juliet 16 20 23 6 – 65
Jefferson County (37) – Griffin 2, Woodard 3, Dodson 9, Alder 5, Taylor, Essington, Bales 5, Jennings 2, Duane 3, Diaz 2, Codispoti 2, Brooks 2, Flatbush 2.
Mt. Juliet (65) – Roggan 6, Roby 3, Ra. DE Gray 7, Sally McCabe 20, Ron Janae DE Gray 18, DeWitt, Waller 5, Sanders, Bounds, Bell 2, Adams 4.
3-Point Goals – Jefferson County 4 (Dodson 2, Bales, Duane), Mt. Juliet 3 (McCabe 2, Waller).
Houston 2 9 9 18 – 38
Blackman 5 15 13 19 – 52
Houston (38) – Knox 7, Parker 2, Harris 6, Roper 9, Burroughs 3, Sharp 2, Malone 3, Reid 2, Collins, Braxton 2, McCaster 2.
Blackman (52) – Norris 4, Jackson 3, Bond 8, Crystal Dangerfield 18, Alex Johnson 13, Williams 2, Bunch, Allen 3, Vanzant, Freeman, Greatrex 1, Hughes.
3-Point Goals – Houston 1 (Roper), Blackman 2 (Jackson, Dangerfield).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)