Rigorous slate of foes toughen Bearden players

According to Bearden High School’s boys basketball head coach Jeremy Parrott, his team has, thus far, faced the toughest Class 4A schedule in the state of Tennessee. His source is the website coacht.com.

But Parrott is fine with that. He’s convinced the preparation it has given his squad will pay off the rest of the season.

“Challenging, I’ll say that,” he said of his team’s 12-5 record entering this week. “It’s like I always say: you can play whoever you want in the regular season. If it’s not preparing you for the postseason and exposing some of your weaknesses, you’re probably not playing who you need to. It’s been challenging, but it’s been rewarding because we have some quality wins in there as well.”

One of the Bulldogs’ highlight games was a 67-58 overtime loss to Berkmar High School (Georgia) at the 38th Annual Arby’s Classic in Bristol just before New Year’s. The Bulldogs led by two with 14 seconds left. Berkmar is one of the nation’s top high-school teams.

“We were a free throw and a rebound away from beating them,” Parrott said. “It would have been a really, really nice win in that tournament. The losses are gone. But that’s one you’d like to have back.”

Parrott thinks his team strengths have been unselfish ball movement and balanced contributions.

“We’ve done a really nice job of sharing the ball,” he said. “We’re a high-volume assist team. It can be any one of us that leads us any given night in different categories.”

Going forward, Parrott sees crashing the boards as a primary part of the game where his team needs to focus.

“Because we’re undersized — just a couple of guys around 6-(foot)-5 are our tallest players — we have to do a little better job of rebounding some nights when we face teams that have a size advantage,” he said.

Parrott is confident his team’s experience will prove valuable down the stretch. “We’re a senior-led ballclub,” he said. “They’ve really answered the bell thus far, but there’s always room for improvement. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, so pretty confident knowing exactly what we need to work on. Just hoping to peak at the right time and stay healthy.”

Following their Tuesday night, Jan. 11, District 4-4A game at William Blount (after deadline), the Bulldogs host Heritage beginning around 7:30 p.m., Friday night, Jan. 15.