After a district championship against Maryville and a strong run in the region tournament, the Bearden boys basketball team has their eyes set on the state tournament.
Even with a young team, the boys are looking to make an impact at state.
“We’re young and we haven’t been there before, but if we keep working hard in practice and in the games then we should get pretty far,” sophomore Drew Pember said Friday.
Bearden will look to keep advancing in the postseason tonight, when the Bulldogs go on the road to face Region 1 champion Science Hill (26-9) in the sectional round at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the state tournament, while the loser will be eliminated from the postseason.
With only one senior on the team and four starters being sophomores, Bearden has one of the youngest teams in the region. However, the Bulldogs were still able to advance to the Region 2-AAA championship game.
Bearden fell in the finals to Oak Ridge, the No. 1 ranked team in the state, 86-73.
Despite the loss, the game provided valuable experience for a young Bearden team.
“[Oak Ridge] is a very strong team,” sophomore Trent Stephney said. “[Playing Oak Ridge] helps us a lot, especially since we will be playing those kinds of strong teams from Memphis in the tournament.”
Added Pember: “Oak Ridge is a very physical and athletic team, and that’s that type of team we will see in state, so playing them twice really helped.”
With the season almost over, it can be hard for teams to stay focused, but Bearden head coach Jeremy Parrott hasn’t had much trouble keeping his team on track.
“As a coach, you make them understand things that they did well, things you build on,” Coach Parrott said. “And then you try to make them understand things that need improvement.
“And you can’t worry about too many things, because at this late juncture, it’s hard to change certain things, but you just try to remind them of why they’re here, that their season’s still alive, that we have hope, and a great shot at going to the state tournament.”
Bearden’s last trip to the state tournament came in 2011 when the Bulldogs went all the way to the final. A state tournament appearance this year would be a first for everyone on this team besides Coach Parrott, who had a run at state with his former team Cherokee in 2012.
Science Hill comes into its matchup against Bearden on a hot streak.
Though the level of competition has not been at quite the same level as Bearden’s has, the Hilltoppers have won 13 games in a row, dating back to Jan. 20.
Science Hill and Bearden have played two of the same opponents this season. In the region semifinals, the Hilltoppers beat Jefferson County by two-points in overtime, a team that Bearden beat by 29 points on Nov. 17.
Both teams also played Oak Ridge twice, with Science Hill losing their two games by an average of nine points, and Bearden losing their pair of games by an average of eight points per game.