Walsh scores 27 to help Lady Bulldogs clinch district title

Aidan Sears

When the Lady Bulldogs last played Maryville, they needed a 3-pointer from Erin Walsh in the closing seconds of the game to win. On Tuesday, Walsh decided to just take care of business from the opening tip. Walsh, a sophomore, scored 27 points and led Bearden to a 59-38 win over the Lady Rebels clinching the Lady Bulldogs the regular season district championship for the first time since 2009. “It just feels really good to be a part of it,” Walsh said. “We’re all so close this year that it’s fun to win something together.” Eighteen of Walsh’s points came from three pointers, a skill she has developed for Bearden (19-4, 12-1 District 4) all year. But more than an increase in shooting ability, it is her improved confidence that has turned her into a lethal offensive force. “I think (Walsh’s improvement) is just from the fact that she has confidence in herself, which is something that we as a coaching staff have had in her all year,” Coach Justin Underwood said. Much of the Lady Bulldogs’ success this year can be contributed to the younger players. The team’s senior captains are grateful for the production of their teammates, young and old. “Without them, or without anybody on our team, we wouldn’t be as far as we are,” senior guard Jai Jai McLaughlin said. McLaughlin is the only player on the roster who played for the 2009 team that won the district championship. She has since been hoping to regain that title. “I feel really good about finishing out my senior season kind of doing the same thing as freshman year,” McLaughlin said. “I feel really good about it; I’m really happy.” In the first meeting between these two teams this year, Maryville (13-9, 8-5) was poised to steal one from the district champs until back-to-back 3-pointers from Olivia Pfeifer and Walsh lifted Bearden to a 48-45 win. On Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs ran out to a 28-12 halftime lead. Anytime Maryville made any threat at a run in the second half, Walsh was there to bury another jump shot. Bearden closes out district play at home on Friday, looking for a series sweep of rival Farragut. Rebels 62, Bulldogs 54: Maryville closed the game on a 9-0 run, making 7-of-8 free throws in the final minute to hold off the Bulldogs, who were playing on Tuesday without senior captain Drew Standifer. Standifer sprained his left ankle during practice on Sunday, and is expected to miss three weeks. Seeing that three weeks could mean the end of Standifer’s high school career, both he and Coach Mark Blevins are hoping that he could return by the start of the District Tournament on Monday, February 13. “Of course, we’ll have to see (about Standifer’s return),” Coach Blevins said. “But we’ll rest him for a couple weeks, and get ready for playoffs.” Despite the three-week estimate, the team trusts that Standifer will know when his ankle feels strong enough to let him safely play. “I’m just going to see how it feels, and then whenever it feels like I can go, I’m probably going to go,” Standifer said. Senior guard Daquan Wright led the Bulldogs (16-8, 9-4) with 25 points, making five 3-pointers. In Standifer’s absence, junior wings Robert Moon and Jordan Wall played added minutes at post to help with the team’s lack of size. “(Moon and Wall) had to get more aggressive, play harder defense, and get rebounds,” Wright said. “They can do it, but we just have to try harder.” Sophomore Isaac Edmiston led Maryville (15-6, 10-3) with 16 points. The Rebels just need a win against Heritage to lock up the No. 2 seed in the district tournament, which would leave Bearden as the No. 3 seed. The Bulldogs will look to get back on track at home against Farragut (8-14, 3-9) on Friday. Bearden won their first meeting 61-39. Aidan Sears is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.