KNOXVILLE — For most of the first half of the Sectional round of the TSSAA Girls’ Basketball State Tournament Saturday night, March 4, at home, Bearden High School — undefeated, Region 2-4A champ and defending Division I 4A state champ — found itself in the unusual position of trailing.
Daniel Boone, runner-up in Region 1, hit six threes in that time — four by Andrea Flores — while the Lady Bulldogs had trouble finding the bucket. With 3:03 left until half, DBHS led 27-18.
Then Bearden, led by freshman point guard Natalya Hodge, woke up.
The Lady Bulldogs scored 14 straight — nine by Hodge on three treys — to lead 32-27 early into the third. The Lady Trailblazers hung in to tie it at 34 with 5:03 to go, but BHS then ran off another 11 straight and never looked back.
The 71-50 victory sends Bearden to defense of its state title at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. The Lady Dawgs play Bradley Central (32-1) in a quarterfinal starting at 10 a.m. CST, 11 a.m. EST, Wednesday, March 8.
“I just can’t say enough about how well they fought,” Lady Dawgs head coach Justin Underwood said about his team. “DB came out and punched us in the mouth. The fact that these kids are 35-0 is a testament to how mentally tough and how hard they fight.”
Bearden will look to extend its two-year victory streak from 57 to 60 games at MTSU by week’s end for a state title repeat.
Wednesday’s winner plays the Blackman (31-2) versus Cookeville (30-4) winner in the semifinals starting at 12:30 p.m. EST, Friday, March 10.
The 4A state championship game begins at 2:30 p.m., EST, Saturday, March 11.
Bearden 71 Daniel Boone 50
Hodge scored 28, including six buckets from beyond the arc, to lead all scorers. She also had seven assists and four steals. Sophomore wing Kendall Anne Murphy scored 16. Senior post Avery Treadwell added 13 points, nine boards and six blocks.
Kyleigh Bacon led Boone with 19. Flores added 17.
“They came out in the second half and put a little more pressure on us,” Lady Blazers head coach Justin Humphries said. “They were a little bit more physical with us. We had a tough time with it.”
Bearden trailed 14-10 after one. The late first-half comeback gave them a 30-27 lead at the break. A 23-11 advantage in the third made it 53-38 heading to the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good team. We knew they’d have a run and we’d have to do what we could to not get frazzled,” Treadwell said.
“We don’t give up,” Underwood said. “Being the favorite is not easy. You just keep playing and trust yourself.
“They take everything that’s thrown at ‘em and find ways to compete,” the Bearden coach added.