CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- There were some eerie similarities with Bradley Central's TSSAA Class AAA state sectional Saturday and its loss to GPS on Nov. 27. Most notably is the loss.
The Bearettes had not lost since the Bruisers beat them 28 games ago, until Lawrence County came to Bradley and defeated them 44-43 in overtime.
Lawrence County (25-7) moves on to the state tournament, which starts Wednesday at Middle Tennessee State. The Bearettes, who trailed at halftime for the only other time besides in their loss to the Bruisers, ended their season 32-2.
Bradley had a chance to win at the end after the Lady Cats' Jessa Hunt missed two free throws with five seconds left. Brooke Copeland rebounded, pushed it up the floor and dished inside to Rebecca Reuter, but Aryanna Gilbert blocked the shot.
"We got it up the floor and under the basket, but we got it blocked from behind," Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. "The girl made a heck of an athletic play."
The Bearettes owned a four-point lead after Copeland made a layup on an inbound play at the 1:40 mark of overtime, but Lawrence County scored seven consecutive points to go up 44-41. Copeland's rebound basket with six seconds left set the stage for the finish.
The Lady Cats' Keiana Gilbert's rebound basket with 26 seconds left sent the game to overtime. She led the six who played with 20 points.
The only time Bradley scored less points in a game this season was also against GPS, which won the Division II-AA championship Saturday.
"Defense and rebounding is what won us the game," Lawrence County coach Wendi Scott said. "We've been carrying ourselves lately with defense and rebounding. Same thing tonight. Our shooting has been off the past several games."
Because of the defense, the Bearettes' shooting was off, too. They were limited to five baskets before halftime and trailed 17-12 at the break.
"By far that was our lowest output all season," Coach Reuter said. "You could make a case we lost the game in the first half."
Copeland led the Bearettes with 13 points and Reuter added 12. Kayla Beavers' 11 were all in the second half and overtime.
Coach Reuter said the difficult part is saying goodbye to six seniors.
"Their hearts are broken right now," he said. "That's understandable. But they've been classy. They've represented Bradley Central High School well, on and off the floor."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.