East Hamilton had one thing in mind Monday night. End the basketball misery of losing to the always potent Bradley Central Bearettes.
Bradley had won all previous 16 meetings in on the court and Monday’s showdown in the District 5-3A tournament would have been the perfect setting for an upset.
However, Bradley wasn’t ready to give up its long run of dominance in the league and against the Lady Hurricanes.
After all, East Hamilton tried to derail the Bearettes in the 2017 and 2018 title games and came up short both times.
The Bearettes trailed early, used a 13-0 to gain the upper hand and eventually withstood the Lady Canes’ furious late comeback to win 52-45 and claim their ninth consecutive tournament championship and 17th straight win in the series with East Hamilton.
“I think we played great,” said East Hamilton’s Madison Hayes, the regular season MVP and a Miss Basketball finalist and also a member of the all-tournament team. “We lost but still feel good about ourselves. Oh, we’ll see them again, that’s for sure. We’re going to see them again in the region tournament.”
Hayes turned in another double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, giving her 60 points and 42 rebounds in three tournament games. She went into the game averaging 25.5 points and 12.4 rebounds
The Bearettes led 39-0 late in the third period but got back-to-back 3s from Kaleigh Hughes and Jamaryn Blair for a 45-30 advantage. Hayes got loose for a layup to end the quarter and her sister, McKenna, made a layup starting the fourth and the Lady Canes were down 45-34.
East Hamilton eventually sliced the deficit to three points on Madison Hayes’ driving layup with 69 seconds left to cap an 8-0 run. Unfortunately, the bucket also put a lid on the Lady Canes’ scoring. Bradley’s Blair and Lombard each connected on two free throws and East Hamilton missed its last five shots.
“Without a doubt that’s the toughest we’ve ever played Bradley, “East Hamilton coach Hunter Gremore said. “Every time Bradley scored in the second half, we had an answer and kept the game close. I’m super proud of this team.”
Said Bradley’s Anna Walker, who led the Bearettes with 18 points and was named the tournament’s MVP, “Both teams really battled and it came down to who wanted it more at the end, and I think we did. They really played well and I think it was because what was at stake.”
Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter, who has been on the sidelines for all nine of the latest title runs, said the teams were “toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose” despite Madison Hayes and Eliziah Laboo picking up their third fouls 45 seconds apart in the second quarter.
“We should have been up by 12 at halftime, but we went in leading by eight,” said Reuter, whose team has won 68 straight games against district opponents. “Still eight points are insurance. We knew we’d get their best haymaker in the second half and this game wasn’t over until the final 10 seconds.”
Due to one-two regular season finishes, the Bearettes had spot secured in the Region 3-3A tournament that begins Friday even before Monday’s tipoff.
The Bearettes (27-3) will host White County, the No. 4 team from District 6-3A and they have a 30-game home winning streak at Jim Smiddy Arena. East Hamilton entertains Rhea County, the third-place team from 6-3A. Rhea shellacked White County, 81-66.
Cleveland rallied from 17 points down to edge McMinn County, 58-56, in the 5-3A consolation game and both teams will hit the road later in the week. The Lady Blue Raiders will play at 6-3A runner-up Cookeville and the Lady Cherokees go to Stone Memorial, which beat the Lady Cavaliers, 58-50, for the 6-3A championship.
All statewide games in regional and sectional rounds start at 7 p.m. local time.
Bradley Central will be appearing its 35th straight region tournament and 60th of the last 61.
The District 5-3A boys’ championship and consolation game are scheduled Tuesday night at Soddy-Daisy High School. No. 1 seed East Hamilton plays No. 2 Cleveland for the title at 7:30 p.m. and McMinn County and Bradley Central play at 6 p.m. for third place.
McKenna Hayes scored 13 points and hit 3-of-9 3-point shots. On her first long-distance appoint, Hayes launched a bomb from the left corner and Gremore was at the other end screaming, “No! No.” When the ball touched nothing but net, the East Hamilton coach, 61-34 with the Lady Canes and 0-10 against the Bearettes, just shrugged and went about coaching.
McKenna Hayes and DeZah Lacy also were selected to the all-tournament squad
Blair scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists. Cambree Mayo added 12 points and was one of four Bearettes with two 3-pointers. Blair, Mayo and Hannah Lombard joined Walker as all-tournament picks.
The Lady Canes (20-12) led 17-16 when Laboo was whistled for her third foul. Forty-five seconds later, Hayes picked up her third. Mayo made two free throws to trigger a 13-0 run that produced a 13-point advantage.
The Bearettes never trailed again.
Bradley Central went dry offensively after Mayo’s 3 put the spread at 14 points with 7:09 remaining and the Lady Canes ran off 11 straight points, starting with McKenna Hayes’ layup and ending with Madison Hayes’ driving layup.
“We were playing our hearts out, especially in the fourth quarter,” said Lacy, who scored seven points on a 10.4 season average. “We really wanted to win. They started stalling the clock and we have some steals, but they were getting the ball back. We had some chances but the shots didn’t fall.”
Cleveland 58, McMinn County 56: When the Lady Cherokees’ Kaitlynn Hennessee swiped a Cleveland pass and raced down court for a layup, McMinn had a 27-23 lead in the third period. The Lady Raiders got a layup by Mariyah Person, Bailey Anderson picked off a pass and drove for an easy bucket, Kara Williams knocked down one of her three 3s and Anderson added a free throw to cut their deficit to 41-33.
Williams started the fourth quarter with another 3 and her put back tied the game at 46-all with 3:43 left. A Williams free throw pushed Cleveland out front, 47-46, and that was its first lead of the ballgame.
McMinn tied the game at 50-50 on Janice Dankworth’s free throw. Person and Kaitlyn Goodman each made layups for a four-point cushion. Anderson and Joy Douglass combined for three free throws in the final 27 seconds to secure the victory.
Williams paced Cleveland with 14 points. Person, Douglass and Anderson each scored 11.
Hennessee sparked McMinn with 19 points, Hannah Burns had scored 14 and Dankworth added 10.
East Hamilton 15 8 9 13 – 45
Bradley Central 16 15 14 7 – 52
East Hamilton (45) – Patton, Lacy 7, Madison Hayes 18, McKenna Hayes 13, Laboo 4, Petitt 1, Johnson, Evans, Copeland 2.
Bradley Central (52) – Hughes 6, Roberts 5, Jamaryn Blair 12, Anna Walker 13, Lombard 4, Cambree Mayo 12, Barnes, Reuter, Williams.
3-Point Goals – East Hamilton 3 (Mc. Hayes 3), Bradley Central 9 (Blair 2, Hughes 2, Walker 2, Mayo 2, Roberts 1).
McMinn County 14 16 11 15 – 56
Cleveland 7 14 12 25 – 58
McMinn County (56) – Smith 3, Hannah Burns 14, Kaitlynn Hennessee 19, Green 4, Janice Dankworth 10, Schiestel, Baxter 7.
Cleveland (58) – Goodman 5, Mariyah Person 11, Rominger, Dasher 5, Rouse, Kara Williams 14, Joy Douglass 11, Droke, Bailey Anderson 11, Alvarado 1.
3-Point Goals – McMinn County 5 (Dankworth 2, Green 1, Hennessee 1, Burns 1), Cleveland 4 (Williams 3, Goodman 1).
Bradley Central – Anna Walker (MVP0, Jamaryn Blair, Hannah Lombard, Cambree Mayo
East Hamilton – Madison Hayes, DeZah Lacy, McKenna Hayes
Cleveland – Madison Dasher, Kara Williams
McMinn County – Hannah Burns, Kaitlynn Hennessee
Ooltewah – Madalyn Mills
Walker Valley – Kyndall Gibson
Soddy-Daisy – Bailey Branam
McMinn County boys vs. Bradley Central, 6 p.m.
Cleveland boys vs. East Hamilton, 7:30 p.m.
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)