CLEVELAND, Tenn. – To say that the Bradley Bearettes own District 5-AAA basketball might be the biggest understatement ever made.
But based on numbers alone, that fact has never been more true.
Facing the McMinn County Lady Cherokees in their Jim Smiddy Arena on Monday night for the District 5-AAA championship, it was a mismatch from the start as expected as the Bearettes rolled to their 21st straight win with a commanding 82-38 victory over the visitors from Athens.
With the win, Bradley improves to 23-1 while the Lady Cherokees are now 11-15 with their third loss to Bradley this season.
Jason Reuter has been the Bradley girls coach for the past 11 years and he’s still batting a thousand in district tournaments as his Bearettes won their 11th straight tournament title and 97th straight win over district opponents.
It was just another day at the office for Reuter and his girls as they took care of business without fanfare.
“The kids came out and shot the ball extremely well, but we were bigger and quicker than they were and this game was over by halftime,” Reuter said following the game.
“We played very unselfish basketball as we shared the ball well as evidenced by 25 assists on 31 made field goals. We respect every team we play and we had to do a little extra work to get ready for McMinn after they upset Cleveland the other day.
“We don’t shoot the ball this well very often, but I feel like we could have won another state title the way we shot it tonight. We also had a great crowd tonight and I hope they will all come back on Friday,” the coach concluded, knowing they will host a first-round region game on Friday at 7.
McMinn County coach Tim McPhail knew his team was facing a major uphill battle long before the opening tip.
“Their big players dominated us inside and they just shot the lights out. There wasn’t much we could do,” McPhail said after a short talk with his girls following the game.
“We were outmatched from the start. I try to always take away something positive from every game we play, but I’m not able to do that tonight. I thought we struggled early on with their defensive pressure. And when they get a lead, things go downhill in a hurry as it quickly becomes a nightmare.
“But there’s no shame in finishing second in this district. We get to play at home on Friday and that’s huge for us,” McPhail added.
It didn’t take long for Bradley to take charge as senior Anna Muhonen scored seven of her team’s first 11 points as the Lady Cherokees didn’t even get off a shot attempt in the first four minutes.
Aubrey Pickel broke the ice with a 3 at the 2:40 mark to make it 11-3, but Muhonen scored again right before the buzzer to give Bradley a 17-5 lead when the first stanza ended.
The Bearettes got off to a great start shooting the ball by hitting six of 11 attempts in the first eight minutes, but it was the second quarter when they really put on a clinic as they sank 11 of 16, including five of seven from long range, as they built a 47-15 lead at intermission.
The third quarter was equally as impressive for Bradley as they sank eight of 11 from the field before going six of 15 in the final quarter with all six being 3-point shots.
The biggest question at that point was what the final margin of victory would be as the Mercy Rule was used in the fourth quarter when the lead reached 35 points and the clock ran nonstop the rest of the way.
Karsee Weber scored 20 points to lead a trio of Bearettes in double figures. She was six of seven from long range as the Bearettes finished the game by hitting 31 of 58 field goal attempts for 58.5 percent, including half of their 24 shots from long range.
Muhonen followed with 18 points, but only two after halftime as she got into foul trouble and watched from the sideline as the outcome had long been decided.
Hannah Jones, who made four straight layups midway through the third quarter, was also in double figures with 14 while teammates Kelsey Carman, Ashlan Crittenden and Makenna Miles all had eight points apiece.
Addie Smith topped the Lady Cherokees with eight points while teammates Jada Mack, Brooklyn Stinnett and Peytyn Oliver all finished with six.
Syler Falcon and Muhonen both snagged six rebounds as Bradley also won that battle, 32-20. Smith had six for McMinn.
The Bearettes will host Warren County Friday night in a Region 3-3A quarterfinal matchup. McMinn will entertain White County.
McMINN CO. 5 10 16 7 -- 38
BRADLEY 17 30 17 18 -- 82
McMINN CO. (38) –
Smith 8, Pickel 3, Mack 6, Stinnett 6, Oliver 6, Grimmett 3, Hansford, Gonzalez 2, Papaioannou 4, Elliott, Rogers, Goforth.
BRADLEY (82) –
Carpenter, Williams 3, Carman 8, Jones 14, Muhonen 18, Crittenden 8, Weber 20, Miles 8, Falcon, Estrada, Swick, Ledford 3, Cartwright.
McMinn Co. 4 (Pickel, Stinnett 2, Oliver); Bradley 12 (Carman, Crittenden 2, Weber 6, Miles 2, Ledford).
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)