Hodge ensures Lady Bulldogs don’t miss a beat after last year’s state title run


Devin Alley

Freshman point guard Natalya Hodge has not looked like a first-year high school player for the Lady Bulldogs this season. She has been integral in Bearden’s unbeaten start.

Natalya Hodge will have an immense effect on Lady Bulldog basketball in seasons to come, but it’s the impact she has already had as a freshman that is earning her attention across the state.

“I see her being a leading scorer for the next three years,” junior Amanda Parker said. “She will definitely have a big impact on Bearden basketball forever.”

Hodge has been playing boys rec league basketball since the age of 7. At the club level, she started playing against high schoolers in the sixth grade. This helped her transition into her first high school season.

She also plays high-level AAU against older players,” Coach Justin Underwood said. ”I think that competition along with her work ethic made for a smoother transition as a 14-year-old freshman than most would.”

Hodge and the Lady Bulldogs (28-0, 10-0 District 4-AAAA) have one more tune-up outside the district against Alcoa on Monday before starting the postseason. Bearden is riding a 50-game win streak dating back to Jan. 1, 2022.

Hodge entered the season knowing she would have big shoes to fill. Last year, the Lady Bulldogs won the first state championship in school history, and Hodge’s predecessor as the Lady Bulldogs’ starting point guard – Jenn Sullivan – was named Miss Basketball for the state of Tennessee.

What makes me different is I am more mature than other freshmen when it comes to basketball,” Hodge said. “They don’t really see me as a freshman on the court.”

Added Parker: “She has honestly shown up to such a high degree that I just did not expect coming from a freshman. … She is just so driven to do well, and she just flourishes under pressure.”

Hodge has frequently led the team in scoring, but one game that stands out is her team high 22 points in a 55-40 win against Farragut on Jan. 27.

“My energy was off the chart,” Hodge said. ”I hype everybody up, and my shots were flowing really well.”

Added Parker: “As a freshman, it is extremely difficult to get ready and used to the pace of the game, but even against Farragut she showed up and did not crumble under pressure at all.”

Hodge thinks the season will continue to be a success if the team stays consistent and hardworking.

“If we keep playing how we’ve been playing and keep working,” Hodge said. “Just go out there and keep beating teams how we’ve been beating them.”