CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Caroline Smith noted the emphasis coach Jason Reuter put on jumping out to a good start in Bradley Central's District 5-AAA girls' championship game against Cleveland.
The Bearettes won their second consecutive district championship with a 60-33 romp Monday on their home court, but higher expectations have them far from satisfied.
The state's fourth-ranked Class AAA team forced 13 turnovers in jumping to a 20-point lead by the end of the first quarter. Bradley now is 29-1 and will host Warren County in the first round of the Region 3-AAA tournament Friday, while the Lady Raiders (19-10) will face Cumberland County at the Raider Dome.
Walker Valley claimed third place by defeating Rhea County 48-34 behind 16 points from Jessica Stepp and 14 from Lyndsey Macon. Those two teams visit White County and Coffee County on Friday. The Lady Mustangs (11-18) will play against the 6-AAA runner-up, while Rhea (13-20) gets the district champion.
Alex Hughey paced Rhea with 15 points.
"It was really important for us to have a good start tonight," said Smith, the District 5-AAA player of the year. "We hadn't played in an intense game in a long time, and the atmosphere really got us going. Defensively, we wanted to jump out and get a lead to where it wouldn't be stressful later on in the contest."
The Bearettes did that, leading 22-2 after a quarter. Cleveland's Nora Berry scored on a layup three minutes in, but those were the only points the Lady Raiders had in the first quarter. Bradley scored the final 18 points of the period, then grew a margin as big as 28 and led 37-10 at the break.
"We wanted to come out and flex our muscle early," Reuter said. "I thought we took their will away; there was no way that we were losing tonight."
Brooke Copeland led Bradley with 21 points, the recipient of some good looks on some backdoor cuts in the first half. Rebecca Reuter and Kayla Beavers each scored 10. Smith had only four points but added eight assists and six steals, while Keila Formont had seven assists.
Sydnie Anderson and Jordan Capron finished with eight points apiece for the Lady Raiders, while Berry added seven.
"We were just unprepared to play," Cleveland coach Mindy Kiser said. "We didn't come close to executing our game plan in the first and second quarter -- that wasn't how we were supposed to play. In the second half, we executed better and it was a completely different ballgame, but we didn't take care of the basketball and didn't do the things we talked about before."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.