Bearden ready for pressure of elimination, third bout with Admirals

Bearden’s boys’ basketball team finds itself in a bit of uncharted territory this postseason. For only the second time in 20 years, the Bulldogs did not earn the two-round bye in the District 4-AAA playoffs and the automatic spot in the Regional Tournament that comes with it. In order to keep their season alive, the Bulldogs need to win their first district tournament game on Thursday against Farragut at 7:30 p.m. Despite the pressure of the do-or-die situation, the Bulldogs are going in to the game confident. “We’ve got to get the win to keep going,” senior center Drew Standifer said. “There’s always the pressure of getting put out, but I have confidence that we’re going to do good.” Some of this confidence comes from the expected return of Standifer. The Bulldogs’ star center has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle, and even though he only returned to practice last Friday, the team expects to play as though he was never injured. “He’s been practicing really well,” senior guard Allan Pirie said. “You can still tell the ankle’s bothering him a little bit, but chemistry-wise, we’re fine.” Standifer admits that his injury, in its second week of an estimated three weeks of recovery, has not fully recovered. But with a weekend of practice and a first-round bye, he hopes to be close to full-strength by Thursday. “It was a little sore in practice the first day,” Standifer said. “I was a little out of shape, but as I kept going in Saturday and Sunday practices, it started feeling a bit looser and a little better to play on.” In the past two weeks without Standifer, the Bulldogs went 2-1, including a 59-53 overtime win against Farragut. Pirie and senior Daquan Wright stepped up to lead the team in Standifer’s absence. “With (Standifer’s) absence, Daquan’s really grown up a lot,” Coach Mark Blevins said. “Hopefully he’ll continue at his current pace and everyone else will pick up the pace, also.” The prospect of playing their crosstown rivals for a third time intrigues the team, especially Standifer. Because he was injured for the second matchup of the season, he hopes to start the end of his senior year by ending the Admirals’ season on his home court. With Standifer, Bearden won at Farragut 61-39 on Jan. 6. The Admirals advanced to Thursday’s second round with a 55-37 win over William Blount in the opening round on Tuesday. Farragut’s last win in the rivalry came on Jan. 19, 2007. Bearden has won the past 13 meetings. “I definitely want to play them again,” Standifer said. “And it would be a good game, since it’s (Bearden’s) first round of the district playoffs.” Aidan Sears is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.