After three years without a state tournament appearance, the Bearden girls basketball team wanted nothing else than a run at state to close off their season.
The Lady Bulldogs’ win over Jefferson County on Saturday night was their 15th in a row, and possibly the most important, as it secured their spot in the first round of the TSSAA State Tournament.
The win was backed by 17 points from sophomore Jakhyia Davis and 13 points apiece from seniors Grace van Rij and Trinity Lee.
Bearden (28-7) will open state tournament play against Arlington (27-7) on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro.
Although he only has two seniors on his team, and only one that has been to state, Coach Justin Underwood has trust that van Rij and Lee can lead this team deep into the tournament.
“Trinity and Grace have done a fantastic job of growing over the year and just getting better,” Coach Underwood said. “I think they keep it pretty light-hearted which, as it gets into postseason basketball, that’s good.
“I expect them to be pretty loose and for us to go down there and enjoy the experience and see if we can’t play a few games of basketball.”
Lee believes that her experience at state as a freshman can be beneficial in leading a younger team deep into the postseason.
“I think I can help the team by telling everyone what to expect while we are there,” Lee said. “We have to play game-by-game and not look into the future too much.”
Added van Rij: “Trinity has quite an advantage and I’m lucky that she has already been to state because I haven’t, and I feel like she’ll be able to tell us what to do and what to expect.”
If the Lady Bulldogs win on Wednesday, they’ll play in a state seminal on Friday against the winner of Riverdale (33-1) and Ravenwood (21-11).
The state tournament won’t be the first time they have played on this court.
“We go down to Murfreesboro to MTSU for summer camp, and part of the reason we do is so we can play on the floor with the intention of getting back,” Coach Underwood said. “So I think they’re familiar with the floor.”
This will be the third trip that Bearden has made to the state tournament since Coach Underwood took over at the start of the 2011-12 season. Prior to Coach Underwood, Bearden had made only one trip to state in the school’s history (1980-81).
Coach Underwood has confidence in his team, and believes they can make a deep run if they play to their full potential.
“I think we’re excited to be there, but we know what we’ve done lately has been the reason why we’re down there,” Coach Underwood said. “If we defend the way we’re capable of and share the basketball, we can play with just about anyone and we’ve done that so far.”