MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WRCB) -- Rebecca Reuter did what she could to help her teammates in Wednesday's Class AAA state quarterfinal matchup with Science Hill.
Unfortunately for Bradley Central's 6-foot-2 junior forward, she had to do it all from the bench.
Without one of their star post players, the third-ranked Bearettes were overwhelmed by the second-ranked Lady Toppers in a 64-38 loss at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center.
It was Bradley Central's first loss this season to a team from Tennessee.
"I don't think this was a reflection of the team we have or should have brought up here, but our team never quit," said head coach Jason Reuter. "It was just a tough matchup with their size with Rebecca out."
Reuter was suspended for two games after receiving two technicals in last week's sub-state win over Blackman. Science Hill took advantage by out-scoring Bradley 30-10 in the paint and out-rebounding them 47-32 on the glass.
"They controlled the game the whole way through," Reuter said. "We had to play more zone than we're used to and hope they shoot the ball poorly. We couldn't try to force our will on them like we have against other teams because we didn't have two big girls down low cleaning up the boards for us."
Brooke Copeland did what she could to keep the Bearettes close, but the 6-foot-1 junior post found little room to maneuver without her tag-team partner down low. Copeland finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds, but was just 6-of-21 from the field.
Bradley Central shot just 28.3-percent (13-of-46) as a team to match its lowest scoring output of the season.
"It was tough because we didn't have much time to prepare for Becca being out," Copeland said. "They just packed it in the post. They knew what they had to do to stop me and stop our offense.
"Our flow usually runs through both Becca and me inside. Our teammates worked so hard and we all did what we could, but we just weren't able to run anything like we have all season."
Science Hill opened the game on a 14-4 run, but the Bearettes had an early answer. Kayla Withrow's 3-pointer with 4:35 left in the second capped an 11-4 Bradley run to pull the Bearettes within 18-15, but that's as close as they'd get the rest of the way.
Morgan Knack's 3-pointer at the other end started a string of ten straight points for the Lady Toppers, who closed the half on an 11-2 run to push the lead back to 12 at the break.
Science Hill then out-scored Bradley 18-8 in the third period to push the lead above 20 points and put the game away.
"We worked so hard as a team, and it's just hard to take it in that it's all over and those seniors won't be playing with us anymore," Copeland said.
Copeland was the only Bradley player in double figures. Baylee Carroll finished with nine points in place of Reuter, and Whitney Donaldson added eight.
Shy Copney scored 16 points to lead the Lady Toppers, who advance to face Memphis Overton in Friday's semifinals. Keisha Gregory and Enjelica Reid were also in double figures for Science Hill with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
It was the second straight season Bradley Central faced an elimination game without one of its top players. Senior leader Caroline Smith suffered a concussion in last year's region final and missed the Bearettes' heart-breaking 44-43 overtime sub-state loss to Lawrence County a week later.
This year's team had to replace six seniors, yet still finished 29-3 and made it's first state tournament appearance since 2001.
"I'm so proud of these kids. We had a great group and we lose four seniors," Reuter said. "These tears of sadness will be tears of joy soon, though, because this bunch overachieved about as much as any I've ever coached."
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