CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Having watched his team play out of control and score only three points in the first quarter Tuesday against rival Cleveland, Bradley Central basketball coach Kent Smith looked at his players and made a simple request:
Try playing my way.
The Bears did plenty of scoring the rest of the way. They had 56 points in the final three quarters, including a second half in which they had 11 assists on 15 made baskets. Three players scored in double figures as they won 59-44 at the Raider Dome.
Bradley (10-8, 5-2) outscored the Blue Raiders 16-3 in the final 6:11 of the District 5-AAA game by sharing the basketball and finding open players.
The final 24 minutes kind of surprised both Smith and his team.
"I thought we were going to have a low-scoring game in the 30s," Bradley post Matthew Whitmire said. "I thought both teams would have low scores and it would come down to the wire. I'm glad we pushed the lead out; we knocked down shots, kept our composure and didn't back down."
Smith had his team running a lot of Flex offense predicated on passing, screening and cutting for open layups. He urged the Bears to run the offense for as long as possible -- "a minute, a minute and 30 seconds or a minute and 40 if we had to."
Bradley finished with 15 assists to only nine turnovers. Logan Cox scored 15 points -- 13 in the first half when the Bears were barely hanging on. Bryce Copeland finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Whitmire had 11 points and five assists.
Smith praised the play of Daniel Clark and Baylor Terrell off the bench.
After a first quarter in which Cleveland led 7-3, the Bears led 20-19 at halftime behind Cox's shooting. The lead stretched to six in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer by the hosts' Kendrick Thompson cut the margin to 43-41 with 6:14 left. The Bears' execution improved down the stretch, while the Raiders struggled to find quality shots and started bickering among themselves.
Guard C.J. Bryant led Cleveland with 19 points, while Thompson added 10.
"Our defense was good all night," Smith said. "Cleveland is going to make one-on-one shots because they're so athletic, but a lot of times it's an all-or-nothing shot so we're going to take advantage of that.
"I didn't think there was any way 60 points was reachable after that first quarter, but we took good shots and it was a good complete victory."