Blevins’s halftime speech motivates Bearden past HVA, 83-62

Wyeth Wilson, Staff Writer

Trailing by two at halftime and having already lost an early nine-point lead, Bearden Coach Mark Blevins gave a speech in the locker room to motivate his team.

And it worked.

Bearden cruised in the second half on their way to an 83-62 win on Friday night over Hardin Valley at Bearden High School.

The Bulldogs (23-1, 10-1 District 4-AAA) used a 22-5 run to open the third quarter that broke the game open after trailing 37-35 at halftime. Hardin Valley (8-14, 3-8) never got closer than 11 points after the run.

Junior Jason Smith led the way for Bearden with 23 points, including eight during the run.

“Coach Blevins gave us a big motivational speech at halftime that fired us up,” Smith said. “Then we switched to a zone-type defense, which I think kind of shocked them since we’re a pretty often a man-to-man team.

“[In the second half] coach really challenged us to come out and get after them.”

Bearden held Hardin Valley to only 25 points in the second half, and to 62 for the whole game, which is 14 points below the Hawks’ average of 76.6 points per game.

Seth Long and Blaine Shockley each had 10 points to lead Hardin Valley.

But offense, not defense, is what Coach Blevins praised after the win.

“The biggest key offensively was Dakota (McGowan),” Coach Blevins said. “Dakota’s ball handling was big.

“Quez (Fair) got in foul trouble, so for more than a quarter Dakota had to handle the point, and that was key.”

McGowan, who finished with seven points, took over the point guard position for around 10 minutes and didn’t miss a beat according to his teammates.

“Dakota rose to the occasion,” said senior Sam Phillips, who made a 3-pointer at the buzzer before halftime. “He was taking it inside pretty strong, and he either got fouled or made his layups.”

Added Smith: “Coach Blevins pretty much challenged Dakota to come off the bench and run the point guard and he just did a really good job, he took it to the rack really hard, got them in foul trouble, and got to the line. I was really proud of him.”

Bearden remains tied with Maryville for first place in the district after the Rebels beat Lenoir City on Friday night.

The Bulldogs return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to face Heritage, the only team to beat Bearden this season.

Lady Bulldogs 57, HVA 45: After running out to a big lead at halftime, Bearden let off the gas a bit against Hardin Valley, but still prevailed behind Madison Rice’s 17 points.

“We didn’t do some things that we do on normal nights,” Coach Justin Underwood said. “On the defensive end, I thought we gave up a lot of second chance points.

“Fortunately for us they didn’t hit free throws; otherwise that could have been a totally different ball game.”

Hardin Valley was 4-for-17 from the free throw line.

Foul trouble and an injury for Lady Bulldog post player Anajae Stephney kept her sidelined for the majority of the game. Stephney, who scored 20 points against the Lady Hawks the last time the teams met, was on the bench for much of the first half, and left the game for good with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter.

Rice picked up where Stephney left off against the Lady Hawks, though, to lead the Lady Bulldogs (22-3, 11-0 District 4-AAA). Bearden now just needs one win in its final three district games – against Heritage, Farragut, and Maryville – to clinch at least a share of the district crown.