Walsh playing key role as Lady Bulldogs prepare for postseason

Varsity basketball is rarely a place for freshmen to play or sophomores to lead, but Erin Walsh is not a typical sophomore. The two-year starter is sinking threes in crunch time for the Lady Bulldogs this season. “At the end of the game, you want the ball in certain people’s hands and Erin is one of those people,” senior captain Jai-Jai McLaughlin said. “At the end of the game, we need her to just dribble the ball and stand out top and be a threat, someone the other team doesn’t want to foul but has to foul, so we can go to the line and knock down two shots. “She plays an instrumental role in our success.” Bearden has used this strategy to great success this season, getting the ball in Walsh’s hands for long range jumpers and late game situations. “It gives me confidence … definitely, but I’ve got to give credit to my teammates for having confidence in me to shoot it,” Walsh said. Walsh and her teammates proudly own the No. 1 seed in the district tournament this week, meaning they get a double bye until the semifinals on Friday and a free pass into the region tournament. This free pass, however, didn’t come free, and the Bulldogs want to make sure they don’t let the advantage they earned from a 12-2 regional record slip. “I don’t want to lose any more games because people have already been talking enough trash about how we shouldn’t be at the top of the district anyways,” McLaughlin said. “I want them to know why we were at the top of the district.” McLaughlin has been at the top of the district before, when the Lady Bulldogs were last there in 2009, but most of this year’s team is stepping into uncharted water. “Last year, we were a lower seed, so I don’t think (the sophomores) understand the difference and what it’s going to take to keep us as a higher seed,” McLaughlin said. “We’re just going to have to prepare each other for the end of the season.” Having to “prepare each other” is a setback the Lady Bulldogs have to face due to Coach Justin Underwood’s recent absence after his wife had a baby. “I think we’ll be out of routine, but I think we’ll be focused and ready,” sophomore Lexus Norwood said. Underwood has missed the past two games, but the girls expect to have him back on the sidelines for Friday’s 4:30 game against William Blount. Distractions out of sight, the girls think they’ll be ready for whatever teams come their way. “Hopefully we all go in there ready to play and beat the teams that we’ve beaten, and hopefully if we get to play Farragut, we can beat them this time,” Walsh said. The Admirals pose one of Bearden’s biggest regional threats as they beat the Lady Bulldogs soundly just two weeks ago. However, in the tournament, when records go out the window, team psyche is what Bearden is focusing on. “We just have to have the mindset every game of ‘we’re here for the common goal’,” McLaughlin said. “There is no reason why we need to go out there and not play hard the whole entire time.” They don’t want to change any part of the formula that made them district champs. “We need to play every game, every quarter just the way we do,” Norwood said. Jacob Steimer is the sports editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.