Underwood surpasses 200-win mark as Lady Bulldogs coach

KNOXVILLE — Bearden High School’s girls basketball team got its coach a milestone victory late last week.

When the Lady Bulldogs routed Knoxville Catholic 62-11 Thursday night, Jan. 10, in a District 4-AAA game at BHS, it was the 200th career win for head coach Justin Underwood.

He won his 201st game 24 hours later, when Bearden (17-2 overall, 7-2 in the district) toppled Heritage 55-48 in Maryville Friday night, Jan. 11.

Underwood has led his Lady Bulldogs to three Class AAA State Tournaments and guided Bearden to multiple district regular-season and tournament championships plus Region 2-AAA Tournament titles during his tenure roaming the sideline for the BHS girls.

The honor might belong to him, but he credits his players.

“Bearden is a special place and I’ve been truly blessed to be here,” said Underwood, who has compiled a 201-48 record as Lady Bulldogs coach. “I’ve had some great kids and I’ve had some great teams.

“I’ve always had girls who wanted to come in here and go to work.”

Bearden senior Annaka Hall, who scored 14 points against the Lady Irish (4-13, 0-9), said she’s been honored to spend four years playing in Underwood’s program.

“He’s a great coach and he’s built a great program,” Hall said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Against Catholic, the Lady Bulldogs turned up the defensive heat early. They jumped out to a 16-2 lead. The Lady Irish’s only offense in the inaugural frame came on a basket by Mary Iverson.

Bearden kept up the pressure throughout the game and opened a 37-9 lead by halftime.

Catholic failed to score in the third quarter and had just one basket over the final 16 minutes. That came from Casey Tramel.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve always stressed defense,” Underwood said. “Catholic has really improved and they’re doing a lot of different things on offense and defense.”

While virtually shutting the Irish’s offensive attack, Bearden got production from all over the floor. Shekina McLaughlin and Jakhyia Davis also scored 14 points.

Davis led the Lady Bulldogs with 14 rebounds.

Hall said she was pleased with Bearden’s effort against Catholic.

“I think we usually tend to play down to our competition,” she said. “It was nice to come out and play the way we know we can play.

“We definitely play in one of the toughest district and nothing comes easily here," she added. "You just can’t take any team lightly.”

Tramel and Emily Pichiarella each scored four points to lead the Lady Irish.