The scoreboard may have indicated a Bearden loss after the Bulldogs’ game against Maryville, but Bearden Coach Mark Blevins saw it differently.
Maryville (6-1, 1-0 District 4-AAA), who ended Bearden’s 2014-15 season, beat the Bulldogs for the third straight time, 60-53 in the league debut for both teams.
Bearden (4-2, 0-1) trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half and fought back to take the lead in the second half, an encouraging sign for a young Bulldog team.
“The whole team really played as hard as they could against a good team, so I’m not discouraged at all,” Coach Blevins said. “It’s early in the season, and we only know about 20 percent of what we should offensively, and so that kind of holds us back, but we’re going to get better and better every week.”
After Bearden took the lead for the first time with 1:27 left in the third quarter, the game was back and forth until Maryville’s Tristan Upchurch hit six consecutive free throws with under a minute to play to seal the win for the Rebels.
Upchurch led Maryville with 20 points, while TD Blackmon, recently reuniting with the Rebel basketball team after Maryville’s football season ended, added 10.
Freshman Trent Stephney, who capped Bearden’s 13-3 run to end the first half with a buzzer-beating jump shot, led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15 points. Senior Quez Fair added 12.
“I’m very encouraged with where our young guys are,” Coach Blevins said. “Trent Stephney is going to be one of the best players to ever play not just at Bearden, but in Knoxville.”
Stephney and fellow freshman Roman Robinson started, while three other freshmen also received playing time.
Bearden now turns their focus to Friday night’s rivalry game against Farragut.
“We played as hard as we could, we just didn’t pull it out tonight,” Coach Blevins said. “We’ll be taking all that energy down to the edge of West Knoxville on Friday night against Farragut.
“We’re looking forward to it.”