Bradley Central’s undefeated and second-ranked Bearettes, powered by senior Rhyne Howard and a show-stopping tradition unmatched in Southeast Tennessee, drew Daniel Boone in the quarterfinals of the 2018 TSSSAA girls’ state basketball tournament on Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
The Bearettes (32-0), who have won five state championships, but none since 1976 when girls still played with a 6-on-6 format, trounced Blackman, 74-31, in yet another dominating performance at Jim Smiddy Arena (JSA).
If they beat Daniel Boone (30-4), the Bearettes would face the Mt. Juliet-Houston winner at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Mt. Juliet (24-8) and Houston (26-5) tangle at 2:45 p.m. on the opening day.
The Class 3A championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Riverdale (33-1) will take on Ravenwood (27-7) in the Triple-A opener at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Arlington (27-7) meets Bearden (28-7) at 11:30 a.m.
Bradley, the lone Chattanooga-area team in this year’s state tournament, headlines the lower bracket and the draw could have gone much worse for the Bearettes and Lady Warriors.
“If I had drawn the ball next to Riverdale, we would have had to play them in the opening game,” Reuter said in a telephone interview while finishing up dinner with his daughter, Rebecca, who was honored on senior night at MTSU’s women’s game Saturday night. “Only if two teams from the same region drawn that way would they have changed it. That happened in the other classification draws today.
“After the draw, I was talking to my staff (Amy Tinsley and Katie Frazier) and I told them this was as good as we could have hoped for. We beat Daniel Boone once in each of the past two years. I don’t think there’s any advantage to us knowing Daniel Boone and them knowing us.”
The Bearettes defeated Daniel Boone, 56-43, in the Holiday Inn Express Thanksgiving tournament in November played on their home court at JSA. They also beat Arlington, 73-58, and Houston, 59-43, in the East-West Classic hosted by East Hamilton and Bradley in December.
In 2016-17, Bradley knocked off Daniel Boone, 61-42, in the prestigious Andrew Johnson Bank Ladies Classic in Greeneville, Tennessee. Daniel Boone beat Oak Ridge, 62-51, in the sectionals to reach the state tournament.
“How you manage your time for the state tournament is very important,” said Reuter, whose Bearettes have won 64 of their last 65 games. “This is a whirlwind. We’re in Murfreesboro for the draw and dinner with my daughter. I have to get home and do my film work on Daniel Boone. We’ll practice Monday at Jim Smiddy Arena and pack for the trip on Tuesday.
“I’m 95 percent sure we’ll practice at UTC either in McKenzie Arena or the Mocs’ practice facility – there is some question about the floor being down in the main arena – and then be in Murfreesboro for the Miss Basketball award ceremony, and we sure hope Rhyne wins it after finishing second last year.”
Bradley’s gymnasium is named for the legendary coach that produced all five state titles and 1,217 victories, back-to-back state and national titles that included identical 36-0 records and a 90-game winning streak during a 45-year coaching career and landed in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Now, Reuter is at the Bearettes’ helm and winding down his eighth season in that capacity.
While the Reuter-led Bearettes are about to make their fourth appearance in the state tournament , and 32nd all-time, winning state titles at Bradley Central has been hard to come by since Smiddy’s final two titles during his brilliant career – he ended his coaching tenure as the winningest basketball coach at any level in the history of the sport.
Smiddy also won state titles in 1962, 1970 and 1973.
Reuter has had three of his eight seasons end with sectional losses, all at JSA.
In 2013 and 2014, the Bearettes got to Murfreesboro, but had little time to unpack before losing first-round games both years. Three years ago, Bradley reached the Class 3A semifinals only to lose to Oak Ridge, a team coached by a former Bearettes star, Paige Redman.
The 2014-15 Bearettes were eliminated from the postseason with a 64-60 loss to White County in the Region 3-3A tournament.
Bradley goes into this year’s state tourney having won 64 of its last 65 games and the only loss was to Stewarts Creek (55-49) in the sectional at JSA where the Bearettes are 112-10 under Reuter. Six of those losses came in Reuter’s first two seasons.
Fans can still find Bradley in the state tournament record book.
The Bearettes are still there for winning two straight titles with unbeaten records.
They’re there for teaming up with Sullivan East for a combined 57 3-point attempts; Bradley took 29 3-point shots and East 28, during their 2000 shootout. The same two schools share the record with most made 3s in the same game with 19; Bradley 10 and East nine.
They’re there for Amy Geren’s hitting 100 percent of her free throws (12 for 12) against Lexington in 1995.
Bradley is back in Murfreesboro for another crack at a sixth title because, in large part, Howard will cap a brilliant four-year career this week with more than 2,400 points and a spot at No. 3 on the school’s all-time scoring list and could be named by TSSAA voting as the 2018 Miss Basketball award winner on Tuesday night.
With a 2,197-485-9 record, the Bearettes are the winning basketball program, boys or girls, in Tennessee history and they’re not the pre-tournament favorite this season.
Riverdale (31-1) is and Reuter admitted as much Saturday night when he said, “Everyone is chasing Riverdale, including us,” after his team smashed Blackman.
The Lady Warriors have won 60 straight games against Tennessee teams and that includes their 40-point win against East Hamilton in the sectionals. Riverdale, which has won six championships – 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017 – is trying to win three consecutive titles for the first time since Shelbyville won four in a row from 1989-93.
Riverdale beat Blackman three times this season by a combined point difference of 82 points. Bradley knocked off its chief threat, East Hamilton, by a total of 110 points and the two teams met twice during the regular season and in the district and region championship games.
The Lady Hurricanes finished 26-7, which is a school record for wins. They could be a serious threat next season when the Bearettes won’t have Howard’s 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.3 steals, 4.0 assists and 2.1 blocks per game on the court.
East Hamilton will be led by Madison Hayes, who as a sophomore is one of the most up-and-coming college prospects in the state. And her sister, McKenna Hayes, who has contributed at times as an eighth-grader, will undoubtedly see more playing time as a freshman.
Ironically, Howard scored 151 points as an eighth-grader at East Hamilton before transferring to Bradley before her freshman year. Those points are not included in Howard’s career totals with the Bearettes.
Reuter has been consistent with his starting lineup all season. While it starts with Howard, a Kentucky signee, she is joined in the opening lineup by juniors Kaleigh Hughes and Hannah Lombard and sophomores Cambree Mayo and Anna Walker.
Hughes and Walker each average 7.4 points per game while Mayo is at 6.0 and Lombard 3.6. Mayo had six points that included two of the Bearettes’ seven 3s in the big win against Blackman.
Bradley’s up-and-coming “Sixth Man,” freshman Jamaryn Blair, who blossomed down the home stretch, once again came off the bench had scored 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting in the win over Blackman.
In the Region 3-3A title victory over East Hamilton, Blair had 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting and added three rebounds, four steals, three blocked shots and two assists. She can be a threat from 3-point distance and penetration to the lane for layups. When she’s on the floor, Blair is usually the fastest player on the floor.
For coaches, film is not hard to come by these days. In fact, while the draw was still going on, Reuter began receiving texts pertaining to the Bearettes’ game with Arlington or Arlington.
“I’ll have more film by tonight than I know what to do with,” he said. “I’ll for sure have film of our earlier game against Daniel Boone and last night’s sectional game against Oak Ridge. If you tell me, I could only take one film, I’d pick the film from our head-to-head meeting. Sometimes teams change their plan of attack during the course of the season, but not very often.
“I remember they have a big girl, about 6-3 and a left-hander (Sydney Pearce) and a very athletic girl (Macie Culbertson) who’s going to Lipscomb and (Bayleigh Carmichael), an athletic girl who can really shoot and drive. Our game Wednesday will probably come down to the team that shoots the ball the best.”
TSSAA Class 3A State Tournament Pairings
At Middle Tennessee State University
All Times Local
Riverdale (33-1) vs. Ravenwood (21-11), 10 a.m.
Arlington (27-7) vs. Bearden (28-7), 11:30 a.m.
Daniel Boone (30-4) vs. Bradley Central (32-0), 1:15 p.m.
Mt. Juliet (24-8) vs. Houston (26-5), 2:45 p.m.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)