published Monday, February 14th, 2011

Dewart wants to finish strong

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    Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press The Lady Mocs' Bailey Dewart pulls down a rebound during Saturday's win over Davidson at McKenzie Arena.

As she knocked down four 3-pointers and ran around gathering 16 rebounds Saturday, Bailey Dewart never looked like a player with a bad knee.

Instead, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Wes Moore said, she looked like a fighter and a leader.

The 5-foot-11 redshirt junior forward may be those things, as well. But the condition of her right knee is so bad, so painful, that she is giving up the game after this season.

"It's kind of a tough decision to have to make," she said while taking off her knee brace after practice Sunday. "I don't want to leave, at all, but I also have to look down the road and I want to be able to play with my kids."

Dewart, who missed last season following knee surgery, doesn't have a meniscus in her right knee and the pain — whether she's playing or just going up or down stairs — is intense. The knee even affects her sleep, she said, because it is "constantly aching."

Despite the pain and the constant maintenance just to keep her on the court, playing this season has "been worth it," Dewart said.

Moore said he has frequently been impressed by her toughness, something he's hoped would rub off on his young, sometimes passive, team.

"I've mentioned that several times, the heart she shows," he said. "She's been through a lot, had a to have a lot of anti-inflammatory injections, and it's just been a constant struggle for her. And then to see her go out there and play as hard as she does, that should be an inspiration to everybody else."

The Lady Mocs wrap up their Southern Conference home schedule tonight against league-leader Appalachian State (20-4, 14-2 SoCon). UTC (13-12, 10-6) doesn't have any seniors on its roster, but prior to tipoff Dewart and several team managers will be recognized.

Not only will Dewart's parents, Angie and Jay, be on hand, but also stepping onto the court for the ceremony will be Appalachian State sophomore forward Ashlen Dewart, her younger sister.

The 6-4 Ashlen scored 28 points the last time she faced UTC and is a leading candidate for SoCon player of the year.

"It's definitely going to be different, but I guess it couldn't be a better ending than getting to play her for senior night," Dewart said.

Giving up the game wasn't an easy decision for Dewart, whose play this season has been the best of her injury-plagued career. She has started 19 games and set career highs Saturday with 16 points and 16 rebounds — the only double-double of her career — in the Lady Mocs' 91-70 rout of Davidson.

Dewart said she hopes to keep playing well as her career comes to a close, but regardless of how well she plays her decision is made. She said she's looking at getting a new meniscus in the years to come, but it's a major surgery that she plans to put off for a while.

Tonight's game is Dewart and UTC's last at the Roundhouse during the regular season, but they'll be back for the SoCon tournament, which begins March 3.

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about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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