Carter’s defensive presence leads Lady Bulldogs to region semis

The Lady Bulldogs may have had the height disadvantage on Friday, but they certainly measured up to the challenge. Bearden defeated Powell 40-36 in the quarterfinals of the Region 2-AAA tournament, a game that was won underneath the basket. Without senior post Cozette Gaspard in the lineup to defend the Lady Panthers’ strong post players, the Bulldogs looked to undersized sophomore Tyler Carter. “We had to have rebounds from her,” Coach Justin Underwood said. “She ended up with 14, so I thought she did an excellent job of just really doing everything we wanted her to do defensively.” Carter is accustomed to playing alongside Gaspard, guarding the other team’s tallest players. But apart from her missing teammate, Carter managed just fine on Friday against Powell’s 6-foot-2 sophomore Damiyah Moore. “I’m trying to play hard for me and her (Gaspard),” Carter said. “Because I really want her back playing, because I play great with her and she plays great with me. “And really, we just want to get together and try to make a run at this thing.” Carter, with help from freshman Olivia Pfeifer and sophomore Erin Walsh, limited Moore’s offensive output to only 10 points, and forced the Lady Panthers (13-16) to use their guards, where the Lady Bulldogs (24-5) could take advantage. Walsh and Pfeifer normally play around the perimeter, but they helped Carter to frustrate Moore early on, denying entry passes that kept her from getting into any kind of rhythm. “We tried to just double down on their posts when they got the ball, so they would be forced to kick it out,” senior guard Jai-Jai McLaughlin said. “And so that gave us some opportunities to get the ball back out so we could guard on the wings and get steals.” Moore’s defensive presence caused more of a problem for the Lady Bulldogs. With Moore guarding the paint and blocking many of Bearden’s inside shots, the Lady Bulldogs had to play around her, find any open shots they could, often coming off of fast breaks. In the fourth quarter, it was McLaughlin who went right at Moore, scoring seven of her team-high 13 points in the final period. “We are a fast break team,” McLaughlin said. “And any time we have the opportunity to fast break, we want to do that. “We would rather get the ball out there and get points on the board quickly.” Bearden led for the entire game, gaining their first lead less than 15 seconds into the game off a 3-pointer from sophomore Lexus Norwood. Despite never giving up the lead, the Lady Bulldogs never put the game definitively out of reach. Coach Underwood hopes that the team can learn from this game and strengthen their late-game performance and lead management. “I thought that we did a good job in spurts,” Coach Underwood said. “But I thought we were never able to actually put them away, so it was a little bit closer than maybe we would have liked it. “But I thought the girls did a good job towards the end, being able to handle it, for the most part.” Bearden will host Maryville on Monday at 7:30 in the semifinals in another elimination game. The Lady Bulldogs defeated the Lady Rebels 48-45 on Jan. 3, and 59-38 on Jan. 31. A win Monday would put Bearden in the region finals and clinch a spot in a state sectional game. Aidan Sears is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.