KNOXVILLE — For the third time this season, the Bearden High School girls basketball team had to come from behind to beat Kingston Pike rival Farragut.
The top-seeded Lady Bulldogs, still unbeaten in District 4-AAA this season, overcame an early deficit to defeat the FHS Lady Admirals 65-53 in the 4-AAA Tournament semifinals Friday night, Feb. 19, at BHS.
Bearden (26-1) won in overtime in Farragut after traililng most of the game, then notched another comeback victory — trailing at halftime — late in the regular-season in West Knoxville.
The Lady Admirals, the No. 4 seed, opened an early 12-9 lead, which forced Beardenhead coach Justin Underwood to change his squad’s defensive tactics. He employed a full-court press in the second quarter, which would change the complexion of the contest.
After the Lady Bulldogs turned up the heat, things went downhill quickly for the Lady Admirals (16-7).
“We were able to force them to turn the ball over,” Zneyah McLaughlin, BHS All-District senior guard, said. “We were able to string the turnovers together and (as an opponent), you don’t want to turn the ball over in bunches.”
“They’re so good and they have so many shooters. You can’t just do one thing against them,” Underwood said.
A balanced scoring attack paced the Lady Bulldogs.
Jennifer Sullivan and Zneyah McLaughlin each had 17 points. Maddie Brillhart added 10. Emily Gonzalez and Avery Treadwell each scored nine points. Treadwell also grabbed 10 rebounds.
“We felt really good in the first quarter. We were focused and we were locking down defensively,” FHS head coach Jason Mayfield said. “But when they put on the press they reached in from behind and took the ball from us.
“We weren’t strong enough with the basketball, and that press really made us lose focus,” he added.
The Lady Bulldogs outscored Farragut 19-5 in the frame and took a 28-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Lady Admirals never really recovered. but they hung around thanks to the efforts of junior wings Avery “Ace” Strickland and Ashlyn Sheridan.
Strickland scored 17 points and made three long-range jumpers before fouling out with 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. She scored 13 of her points after halftime and had 10 in the third quarter.
Sheridan finished the game with 15 points, including 11 in the second half.
McLaughlin said that Bearden’s press was the difference in the game.
Despite his team’s double-digit victory, “We didn’t have our best game, but it postseason, it’s about getting a victory, advancing and moving on,” Underwood said. “You just have to find a way. Tonight, we just found a way.”
“Farragut is good, long and they’re quick,” McLaughlin said. “You can’t see them coming at you because they’re so fast.”