Basketball teams reflect on successful seasons, look ahead to next year


Hailey Kraft

Senior Erin Walsh makes a free throw against Catholic earlier this year. Walsh is a member of one of the most decorated senior classes in program history.

Every senior class leaves behind a legacy of some kind, and both Bearden’s boys and girls senior basketball classes have certainly left their mark in the record books over the past four seasons.

The Lady Bulldogs (25-8, 9-5 District 4-AAA) ended their season Feb. 24 losing to Maryville in the semifinals of the region tournament.

While seniors Lexus Norwood (a Lees McRae signee), Tyler Carter, and Erin Walsh (a Lee University signee) would still love to be playing, they finished their last season at Bearden leaving behind a legacy of greatness and of hard work and dedication.

“I think just the opportunity that they had to turn the program around [led to their legacy],” Coach Justin Underwood said. “And just the foundation that they set…but more than anything, they have just put pride in and restored a pride of girls basketball at Bearden.”

Added Norwood: “Being with Tyler and Erin, I feel like we set a tempo for girls basketball at Bearden, and I feel like that we really showed that we don’t quit after adversity happens and that we stick together, and we set a tempo for the upcoming seniors so that they will try to be good leaders like we were too.”

The senior girls will graduate in May with a regular season district championship, a district tournament championship, a region tournament championship, and the Lady Bulldogs’ first state tournament berth in 32 years. Walsh is also a member of Bearden’s elite 1,000-point club.

As the Lady Bulldogs prepare for the off season without Norwood, Carter, and Walsh, it’s time for a new senior class trio to arise from their shadows and lead their team.

The junior class that is comprised of Olivia Pfeifer, Madison Rice, and Katelyn McReynolds – who missed the entire past season due to an ACL injury – have been the ones who have had to lead in the background.

“I think that the junior class is kind of the forgotten class,” Coach Underwood said. “And they do such a good job of always giving their best and almost just blending in from time to time and doing exactly what the team needs.”

Coach Underwood said that Pfeifer, who has played on the varsity team since her freshman year, has been a consistent player, and that Rice’s offensive presence was a huge factor down the stretch of this season, as were the improvements that she has made on defense.

“That class is a group that has been a part of a lot of wins,” Coach Underwood said. “Maybe they don’t get as much of a spotlight, but at the same time I don’t have to worry about them. They’re ones that seem focused on what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The boys basketball team ended their season 22-10 losing to Halls high school 82-66 on Feb. 22.

“We went as far as we could go,” Coach Mark Blevins said. “The last game was an ice hockey game. We had to skate around the floor because it was so slick, and they were a better ice hockey team than we were.”

The boys program has always had a strong winning tradition at Bearden, especially over the past 20 years under the direction of Coach Blevins. The boys team is graduating Isaiah Campbell (a Bryan College signee), Jack Graham (a member of the 1,000-point club), Noah Gettelfinger, Taylor Sosna, and Jarrell Stephney. They led the Bulldogs to their 21st district title in 20 years (regular season and tournament combined), and they helped Coach Blevins to his 800th career win in a game against Farragut.

“That’s actually something special to us as seniors,” Campbell said, “and everybody else because not a lot of teams get that far… We got it against Farragut so that’s pretty big and sweeping Farragut three times and knowing we got his 800th win for him. That is really big.

“And so that’s something special for him and for us because we got to share that with him and we were the team to do it.”

Coach Blevins said that he is waiting for the summer pre-season to test and to see who will rise to the challenge and step up to lead next year’s team.

“You just don’t know,” Coach Blevins said. “Jack had always been a role player until this year; he had to do what he did for us to be as successful, and he was able to accomplish that. So we have to have at least one guy to step up offensively and take up the slack.”