By Michael Lindsay
Senior night in Baxter saw the Upperman Bees and Lady Bees win a pair of District 7AAA games over Cumberland County on Friday.
The Lady Bees defeated the Lady Jets, 61-51, followed by a 56-41 victory by the Upperman boys.
The Upperman Lady Bees (23-3, 8-2) picked up a massive district victory over Cumberland County (18-7, 6-4) Friday evening, 61-51, to keep them alive in the hunt for first place in district play.
“Another great game in our district; pretty much every matchup can go like tonight,” said Lady Bee head coach Dana McWilliams. “We were fortunate to make some plays at the end and pull away. It comes down to making plays. You can’t be totally prepared for everything. You have to know how to do things on your own and adjust.”
Upperman featured a trio of double-digit scorers, led by freshman Gracie Butler with 19 points. Senior Jayla Cobb scored 16 along with 12 points and 10 rebounds by senior forward Abigail Johnson.
“Gracie’s had a great second half of the year and is going to be really special,” McWilliams said. “Jayla and Abigail are so solid every night. It was a good effort all around. We were subbing in and out, and I think everybody that came in did a good job.”
Cumberland County was led by 16 points from Emery Baragona and 12 by Abby Houston.
It was the Lady Jets who led early as they held a 12-10 advantage after the first quarter. Upperman responded in the second period from the three-point line as they hit 4 treys to lead 25-22 at halftime.
The Lady Bees opened the third period with a Butler three-pointer to take a 28-22 advantage. The Lady Jets would fight back to trail 30-28 midway through the third period before Cobb answered with a three-pointer to push their lead back out to 5.
Upperman held a 37-30 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Lady Jets came within 6 points (39-33) early in the period before a quick 7-0 Lady Bee run gave them a 46-33 lead with less than 3 minutes remaining. The Lady Jets would trim their deficit back to 7 (50-43) but got no closer as Upperman held on to win by a 61-51 final.
The win, combined with Livingston Academy’s loss at White County, keeps the Lady Bees alive for the District 7AAA regular-season title and overall tournament #1 seed. Upperman can finish no worse than third overall.
Up next for the Lady Bees is a showdown at current district leader Livingston Academy, who is 9-1 in league play and won at Upperman on Jan. 13, 47-38.
“We know if we win (at LA) we could be in a tie for first, but we still have another game after that,” McWilliams said. “We’re not going to put too much on one game. We try to put ourselves in the best position we can. This district is really tough.”
Cumberland County drops to 6-4 in league play and is currently 4th overall behind Livingston, Upperman and White County. The Lady Jets host district foes DeKalb County and White County on Tuesday and Friday.
Upperman (61): Gracie Butler 19, Jayla Cobb 16, Abigail Johnson 12, Taylor Dolente 6, Korra Bass 5, Gracie Hamilton 2, Bella Stiles 1
Cumberland County (51): Emery Baragona 16, Abby Houston 12, Grace Baldwin 7, Jalyn Baldwin 6, Aliyah Hawkins 5, Lexi Carroll 3, Jorja Anderson 2
Upperman (17-6, 7-3) finished their season sweep of Cumberland County (4-22, 2-8) via a 56-41 victory over the Jets on senior night.
“Senior night is emotional, and I thought once we settled in on both ends we played pretty well in spurts,” Upperman boys coach Bobby McWilliams said. “We made too many unforced mistakes that we have to do a much better job of if we’re going to make any noise in the tournaments.”
Upperman senior AJ Nash, who has been hurt and missed over half the season, started against the Jets.
“We were so thankful he was able to do that, and I really appreciate Cumberland County doing that for us,” McWilliams said. “He has been the picture of what high school basketball is all about; he’s a hard worker and a great kid and student.”
Leading the Bees was fellow senior Jaxson Bush, who scored 22 points in the win.
“He was really efficient and I’m tickled for him,” McWilliams said. “He’s a gamer and shot the ball well.”
Upperman’s Hayden Petty and Brayden Roberts also scored in double figures with 10 points each.
Cumberland County was led by 16 points from Braeden Woodard and 11 by Braden Leviner.
The Jets came out strong as Leviner hit three first-quarter three-pointers as the teams were tied at 13 following the opening frame.
Upperman took a 7-point lead (28-21) in the second period before a Woodard three-pointer late in the period cut the Bee advantage to 28-24 at halftime.
Upperman pushed their lead to double digits (38-28) via a Hayden Petty three-pointer with 3:26 to go in the third quarter.
The Jets got their deficit down to 8 points (38-30) late in the third but would get no closer as Upperman took control of the fourth period to win by a 56-41 final score.
The win, combined with Livingston Academy’s loss to White County, ties the Bees for second overall in District 7AAA. Upperman travels to LA on Tuesday with second place on the line.
Cumberland County hosts DeKalb County on Tuesday and White County on Friday.
Upperman (56): Jaxson Bush 22, Hayden Petty 10, Brayden Roberts 10, Clayton Harris 8, Bronzden Chaffin 5, Kam Bush 1
Cumberland County (41): Braeden Woodard 16. Braden Leviner 11, Jaxon Reed 4, Nolen Carter 3, Sol Sutton 3, Ethan Dixon 2, Braylon Burnett 2
During halftime of the boys game, Upperman retired Brooklyn Crouch’s number. More on that can be found HERE: https://uppercumberlandreporter.com/2023/02/upperman-retires-all-time-great-brooklyn-crouchs-3/