Howard Plays Like A "Miss Basketball" As Bradley Rips Lady Canes For 5-3A Title

Kentucky Signee Scores 41 Points As Bearettes Roll 73-42 To Go 28-0

Monday, February 19, 2018 - by Larry Fleming
Bradley Central freshman Jamaryn Blair goes up for a shot against East Hamilton on Monday in the District 5-3A tournament title game at Walker Valley High School. Blair scored 14 points in the Bearettes' 73-42 victory and joined Rhyne Howard and Anna Walker on the all-tournament team.
Bradley Central freshman Jamaryn Blair goes up for a shot against East Hamilton on Monday in the District 5-3A tournament title game at Walker Valley High School. Blair scored 14 points in the Bearettes' 73-42 victory and joined Rhyne Howard and Anna Walker on the all-tournament team.
- photo by Dennis Norwood

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – In each of the last eight seasons, Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter hasn’t come close to winning the District 5-3A Coach of the Year award, an award voted on by the league coaches.

In those eight years, however, Reuter has directed the Bearettes to a district tournament championship.

Every year.

Just like clockwork.

That’s a tradeoff Reuter and the Bearettes are willing to make any time.

“We try to make him look good,” said senior Kentucky signee Rhyne Howard after tying a career-high with 41 points in the unbeaten and second-ranked Bearettes walloped East Hamilton, 73-42, for the 2018 tournament title.

No girls’ team has won the championship since Cleveland beat Walker Valley in 2010.

In Bradley’s remarkable streak, Cleveland has lost to the Bearettes in the title showdown three times. East Hamilton has lost two straight years and McMinn County twice tried to derail Bradley and also came up short both times.

“I told the girls tonight,” Reuter said, ‘Go out there and get me that plaque and you’ll make me proud.’ I coach them hard and they understand that; it’s not personal and the results are what you see. Obviously, Rhyne Howard makes any coach look good, but we didn’t just do this tonight with Rhyne Howard. There were a lot of people that made us 28-0 this year.

“We’ve got bigger things ahead of us, I hope, but I’m proud of this team tonight.”

Bradley, which has won 60 of its last 61 games, advanced to Friday’s Region 3-3A tournament and will host Warren County. Warren (12-17) lost to White County, 60-54, in the District 6-3A tournament consolation game.

East Hamilton (24-5) also will play at home against White County (21-8).

Walker Valley, which defeated Cleveland, 52-51, on Abbey Clark’s free throw with two seconds left, in the 5-3A third-place game, travels to Rhea County (24-6) and Cleveland will be on the road at Stone Memorial (21-7), which beat Rhea, 71-64, for the 6-3A title.

All first-round region games start at 7 p.m., as mandated by the TSSAA.

The Lady Hurricanes, who have steadily improved in Hunter Gremore’s two seasons, have never beaten the Bearettes in 11 tries since joining the 5-3A ranks for the 2013-14season. East Hamilton came within nine points of Bradley earlier this season and lost by four in December 2015.

Bradley dug an early hole the Lady Canes could not escape, delivering a blow by scoring eight points in 39 seconds that pushed its lead to 24-9. The Bearettes extended that run to 15-0 and were up 31-9 early in the second period.

When the first half ended, the Bearettes, who have won 53 straight games against league opponents, including postseason, enjoyed a 49-20 advantage and Howard had 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting.

“Rhyne had 30 at the half and we gave her some easy shots on turnovers, but she also made some really tough shots as well,” East Hamilton coach Hunter Gremore said. “We panicked in that 15-0 run and were so far behind and there’s not much you can do in that situation.”

Howard, the Bearettes’ point guard, single-handedly had outscored East Hamilton (41-39) until McKenna Hayes, Madison’s younger sister, hit a right-wing 3-pointer with 45.6 seconds left in the game.

Howard was taken out and replaced by Amelia Reuter with 2:25 on the clock.

“To be a freshman and get to play on the team with Rhyne and play with this team is a great thing for me,” said freshman Jamaryn Blair, who came off the bench to score 14 points, adding three assists and two of the Bearettes’ 13 steals.

Ironically, Howard, a two-time Miss Basketball finalist, played at East Hamilton as an eighth-grader and scored 151 points, but those are not included in Howard’s career totals at Bradley.

In her four years with the Bearettes, Howard, who speaks softly and carries a near lethal scoring stick that can humble opponents from any spot on the offensive side of the court, has put up 2,350 points and is No. sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list.

She is 89 points shy of No. 5 Brittany Jackson, a high school all-American who graduated in 2001 with 2,439 career points.

"Rhyne put on a Miss Basketball performance tonight if I've ever seen one," Reuter said. "It was a Rhyne Howard show and I hope everybody got their seven dollars worth (admission), and I think they did."

For the game, Howard went 16 for 25 from the field and added 11 rebounds for yet another double-double. She was also credited with six steals and four assists.

Madison Hayes, who missed some action due to foul trouble, scored 15 points to lead the Lady Canes, who shot 29 percent (11 for 38), but committed 20 turnovers. Hayes turned the ball over seven times.

Clearly, the Bearettes have been motivated by the voting of league coaches against Reuter and players don’t mind saying the annual snubs help them prepare for the tournament.

“Coach Reuter is more worried about our achievements as a team than he is about individual coaching honors,” junior Kaleigh Hughes said. “None of us players would trade him for another coach. As hard as he can be, he’s the best coach in our opinion. He deserves to be coach of the year, but as long as we keep winning championships he’s happy with that.”

Dating to the 2012 tournament, a Bradley player was named the regular season’s player of the year. In addition to Howard’s three, Brooke Copeland was twice honored and Caroline Smith picked up the award in 2012. The only interruption came in 2015 when Cleveland’s Jenna Scoggins was selected POY.

Leading by 16-9 after back-to-back goals by Howard, the Lady Canes turned the ball over four straight times and Howard got three field goals and Blair added one – all layups – in a span of 39 seconds to end the first period.

The Bearettes were simply following their season guidelines in jumping to the early commanding lead. They have outscored the opponents 492-226 in the first quarter and 536—261 in the second in 28 games.

“Sometimes we strike like lightning,” Reuter said. “It helps when you’ve got speed and Blair, a freshman, showed a lot of speed out there tonight. I expected a closer game because they’re a better team than this. We jumped on them early, they got into foul trouble and could not make up that ground.”

Walker Valley girls 52, Cleveland 51: The third-place game was a rough-and-tumble battle and neither team was giving an inch.

The Lady Mustangs’ Macey Clark decided to take her game outside and ripped the Lady Blue Raiders with six 3-pointers – two in each of the first three quarters – for a game-high 18 points. Clark helped Walker Valley take a 29-16 halftime lead.

Emma Flowers gave Cleveland a 49-44 advantage with 2:42 left with a turnaround jump shot, but the Lady Mustangs scored seven straight points capped by an Abbey Davis free throw and led 51-49 with 64 seconds remaining.

Cleveland’s Madison Dasher hit two free throws to tie the game with 50 seconds left.

After two timeouts, Clark stepped to the line and calmly missed the first free throw. She was on target with the second attempt.

The Lady Raiders got the inbounds pass to Flowers and half-court and called a time out. On the final play, Dasher got off a 3 but the failed to draw iron as time expired.

Davis and Lauren Lay each finished with 11 points for Walker Valley and Lay went over 1,000 points in her career.

Dasher had 12 points for Cleveland, including 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the second half. Flowers added 11 points, seven in the second half.


Championship Game

East Hamilton                       9 11 7 15 0 – 42

Bradley Central                   24 25 11 13 – 73

East Hamilton (42) – Lacy 8, Suttles 6, Madison Hayes 15, Zeh, Laboo 4, D. Zeh, Medley, Mc. Hayes 9, Johnson, Petitt, Evans, Abernathy.  

Bradley Central (73) – Hughes 3, Mayo 3, Rhyne Howard 41, Walker 8, Lombard 4, Roberts, Reuter, Jamaryn Blair 14, Barnes, Hullender.

3-Point Goals – East Hamilton 3 (Mc. Hayes 3), Bradley Central 9 (Howard 3, Blair 3, Hughes 1, Mayo 1, Lombard 1).

Third-Place Game

Cleveland                              14 12 12 13 – 51

Walker Valley                       13 16 10 13 – 52

Cleveland (51) – Reed 7, Goodman, Madison Dasher 12, Franklin 3, Emma Flowers 11, Langford, Williams, Douglass 8, Droke, Bailey Anderson 10.

Walker Valley (52) – Nipper 6, Abbey Davis 11, Macey Clark 18, Kile, Roberts, Anderson 4, Lauren Lay 11, Baker, Fowler 2, Harris.

3-Point Goals – Cleveland 5 (Dasher 2, Reed 1, Franklin 1, Anderson 1), Walker Valley 9 (Clark 6, Nipper 2, Davis 1).

All-Tournament Team

Bradley Central – Rhyne Howard, Anna Walker, Jamaryn Blair

East Hamilton – Madison Hayes, DeZah Lacy and Kaiyanna Suttles

Walker Valley – Abbey Davis, Lauren Lay

Cleveland – Caitlin Reed, Emma Flowers

McMinn County – Kaylen Hicks

Ooltewah – Madalyn Mills

Soddy-Daisy – Lydia Hall

(Contact Larry Fleming at and on Twitter @larryfleming44)

Madison Hayes of East Hamilton is defended closely by Bradley's Kaliegh Hughes, left, and Alexis Barnes (34) during their District 5-3A tournament championship game won by the Bearettes, 73-42. Hayes, DeZah Lacy and Kaiyanna Suttlers made all-tournament.
Madison Hayes of East Hamilton is defended closely by Bradley's Kaliegh Hughes, left, and Alexis Barnes (34) during their District 5-3A tournament championship game won by the Bearettes, 73-42. Hayes, DeZah Lacy and Kaiyanna Suttlers made all-tournament.
- Photo2 by Dennis Norwood

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