By Ken Lay
Bearden High School girls basketball coach Justin Underwood couldn’t hide his happiness Wednesday night.
And who could blame him?
Underwood saw his team cruise to the Region 2-4A Championship with a 56-27 victory over Kingston Pike rival Farragut before a spirited crowd at home.
It was the Lady Bulldogs’ fourth win over the Lady Admirals this season. Bearden swept the regular-season series and defeated Farragut on Feb. 28 to win the District 4-4A Championship.
The latest meeting between the Lady Bulldogs (32-3) and the Lady Admirals was close early as Farragut guard Avery Strickland buried three long-range jumpers in the first quarter to keep Farragut within striking distance.
But Bearden, which held a 16-11 advantage after the opening frame, silenced Strickland for the remainder of the contest. The Lady Admirals’ only other points in the inaugural stanza came on a basket from McCall Willis on the final play of the quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs, who surrendered just six field goals over the first 16 minutes of the game, turned up the defensive heat but six of Farragut’s baskets came from beyond the 3-point arc as Bearden extended its lead to 26-17 by halftime.
“Every time Farragut made a run, we made shots,” Underwood said. “Our kids play well together and they share the ball. That’s why we have kids that have college scholarships.”
The Lady Admirals didn’t make any runs after halftime after Bearden used a 15-3 run in the third stanza to open a 41-20 lead and salt things away.
Farragut’s only offense in the frame came from guard Keeleigh Rogers, who made a bucket and a free throw.
The Lady Bulldogs, however, had no trouble making shots as they made nine shots from beyond the 3-point arc and had three players post double figures in the scoring column.
Jennifer Sullivan led the way with 15 points and made three long-range jumpers. She scored 13 points after halftime.
Region tournament Most Valuable Player Bailey Burgess finished with 14 points and converted four 3-pointers and Emily Gonzalez finished with 12 points. Maddie Brillhart scored seven points.
“Emily, Jen and Bailey made some big 3’s and Maddie made some big shots for us,” Underwood said.”
Strickland’s nine points paced Farragut, which scored just 10 points after halftime.
The Lady Admirals, who made just three field goals after halftime, made a combined six 3-pointers as Annalise Bishop and Rogers had long-range jumpers to go with Strickland’s three.
Both Farragut and Bearden advanced to Saturday’s state sectionals. The Lady Bulldogs hosted Science Hill while the Lady Admirals traveled to Sevier County but results were not available at press time.
All-Tournament team: The all-region tournament team was comprised of Bearden and Farragut players. Strickland, Rogers and Ashlyn Sheridan made the team for the Lady Admirals.
Bearden’s selections included Burgess, Gonzalez, Brillhart and Sullivan.