At 15-3 overall and 1-0 in District 4-4A entering this week, Bearden High School’s girls’ basketball team has every reason to feel confident about the rest of the regular season and postseason.
A major factor in the Lady Bulldogs’ success has been leadership from their experienced players, according to head coach Justin Underwood.
“Our veteran leadership between our five seniors has been fantastic,” Underwood said. “Their work ethic, their amount of time in the gym has been a great example to our younger kids. As far as our juniors and seniors as a whole, their unselfishness has been a strength for us. Every single starter has been a leading scorer.”
“We’ve had some very challenging games,” he added. “We’ve had a lot of our games on the road. We’ve definitely been tested away from home, and against some really good competition.”
Two of those challenging games came in Florida during the Christmas break when Bearden first beat MonteVerde Academy (Florida) 83-79. According to one poll, MonteVerde was the No. 3 team in the nation at the time.
Two days later, the Lady Bulldogs lost 95-91 in double overtime to Lake Highland Prep, the No. 9 team nationally.
Between the twin requirements of shooting and rebounding, Underwood thinks clearing the glass remains the bigger challenge.
“Rebounding is a key,” he said. “We shoot it particularly well most nights, but you wanna be able to limit other teams to one shot and give yourself extra chances on the other end. That’s definitely an area that we always want to emphasize.”
The Lady Bulldogs hardly lack talent. Four senior starters already have signed to play college ball.
“They’ve all stood out,” Underwood said.
Individually, senior guard Emily Gonzales is “one who has exceeded expectations outside our locker room ...,” the coach said. “She’s a gym rat and just continues to get better.
“She averaged over 22 points in those three games (in Florida), which was a really solid offensive presence for us in those games,” Underwood added.
Bearden’s District 4-4A win was against Farragut. The Lady Bulldogs resumed district play at William Blount Tuesday, Jan. 11 (after deadline). They play Trinity Collegiate School (South Carolina) at the She Got Game Classic in Charlotte Saturday, Jan. 15.
“We’re back into a very good district,” Underwood said. “We wanna be playing our best basketball come tournament time in February, so we’re looking forward to the start of 2022.”