By Steve Williams
Bearden High’s boys basketball team set a goal this season to set a school record for fewest points allowed by its opponents.
Head Coach Jeremy Parrott also considered his Bulldogs the defending state champions after his 2019 team won the school’s first-ever state title and there was not a state tourney in 2020 due to the pandemic.
In the end, the “Dawgs” didn’t get everything they wanted but had a great season overall.
Even in its final game in the TSSAA Class AAA state quarterfinals last week at Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Bearden made a super comeback and had a chance to tie on its last possession before losing to Cane Ridge 50-47.
The Ravens’ taller Ryan Oliver blocked Izaiah Bredwood’s 3-point shot attempt right before the final buzzer.
The victory propelled Cane Ridge into the semifinals with a 14-0 record. The Antioch team didn’t play its first game this season until Feb. 2 because of COVID-19 restrictions in the Nashville area.
Bearden finished 30-4, with its man-to-man defense holding opponents to 44 points per game and breaking the school record of 47.2 set by the 1998-99 team.
The Ravens were averaging 76 points coming into the contest.
Brandon Miller, a 6-7 wing ranked as one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2022, powered CR with 21 points – four below his average – and seven rebounds. He also had three blocks, three assists and three steals.
Miller, who has a scholarship offer from UT, connected on 6 of 9 field goal attempts and 9 of 10 free throws.
Junior guard Elijah Bredwood led Bearden with 17 points, hitting 7 of 15 from the field and 3 of 4 foul shots.
AJ Pruitt, the Bulldogs’ senior wing, added 11 points and four steals but was 3 of 12 on field goal tries.
Senior point guard Izaiah Bredwood contributed eight points and five rebounds. Hayden Treadwell also chipped in eight points.
Excellent team shooting may have been the difference. The Ravens shot 53.6 percent from the field (15 of 28) and 82.6 percent from the free throw line (19 of 23).
Bearden made 16 of 44 FGs (36.4 percent), including 6 of 14 behind the arc. A noticeable difference, however, was the fact that the Bulldogs attempted only 12 free throws, making nine.
A sizzling third period was key to Cane Ridge extending a two-point halftime lead (22-20) to 10 points (41-31). During those eight minutes, the Ravens were 4 of 5 from the field, including their only 3-pointer, and swished in all 10 of 10 from the line.
CR’s advantage grew to 13 points (46-33) with five minutes left in the game on a steal and ensuing free throw by Miller.
Two foul shots by Miller gave the Ravens a 48-37 command with 3:40 to go.
That’s when Bearden started its run. Pruitt sank two foul shots, Elijah buried a trey, Treadwell made two free throws after a key offensive rebound and Pruitt made one of two at the line to pull the Bulldogs within one (48-47) with 37.3 seconds on the clock.
Miller was fouled with 11.1 seconds remaining and hit a foul shot before and after a Bearden timeout.
Down by three, the strategy was to set up a 3-point shot for Elijah, Izaiah or Treadwell, said Coach Parrott.
The ball and the fate of the season ended up in Izaiah’s hands.
“I just hate we had to come back,” said Parrott. “We didn’t make some really smart decisions fouling jump shooters. We fouled No. 24 (Miller) a couple of times in the act of shooting out on the floor. They were struggling to score and it gave them the opportunity to score that we didn’t need to give them.
“He (Miller) hit nine free throws himself. That’s the same number of free throws our whole team made.
“We put him in a position where he could get some free looks at it and you don’t want to do that with a player like him. That kind of got us in that deficit that we had to dig out of and just almost did.”