The Cookeville Lady Cavaliers season came to an end in a 59-43 loss to Bradley Central in the semifinal round of the 2023 Class 4A girls’ state tournament on Friday at the Murphy Center.
The Lady Cavs were unable to overcome a slow start and Bradley Central’s size as their season ended in the final four for the second consecutive year.
“We shot the ball really poorly in the first half and couldn’t get anything going,” said CHS head coach Jamie Gillies. “Credit to Bradley Central. Defensively they’re really good. Dig a hole against a team like that and it’s going to be hard to come back.”
The Lady Cavs struggled with the size of Bradley Central in the first quarter as the Bearettes out-rebounded CHS 9-4 while feeding the basketball to Harmonie Ware in the post as she scored five points in the frame. On the offensive end, CHS couldn’t find a rhythm, going 2-9 from the floor. BCHS led 14-4 at the end of the first.
The Bearettes took a commanding 29-10 lead midway through the frame on an 11-0 run as they continued to get the ball inside. Allie Gillies and Jordan Gillies each made two free throws in the final minutes, but the Lady Cavs trailed 31-14 at halftime.
The CHS offense came to life in the third quarter, with Allie Gillies burying a three to open the frame. The Lady Cavs scored four straight on a layup by Cassie Gallagher and two free throws by Macy Hudson to cut the deficit to 11. Jordan Gillies answered a Ware layup to make it 38-27 at the end of three.
The Lady Cavs cut the deficit to single digits on a three by Cara Lee Gilbert, but the Bearettes answered with a 6-0 run over the next minute to stretch the advantage back to 14, the Lady Cavs were unable to make another run as the Bearettes secured the victory.
“I felt like we made some adjustments at halftime and played a better second half,” said coach Gillies. “Just that first half killed us.”
Gallagher led the Lady Cavs with 15 points. Jordan Gillies tallied eight points. Allie Gillies scored five with Garcia adding 10 and Hudson scoring two. Gilbert scored three.
The Bearettes out-rebounded CHS 34-17. The Lady Cavs shot 28% from the field and 14% from three-point range.
“I like the shots we got,” said coach Gillies. “We forced it a little bit early… but we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the first quarter. It was hard. We couldn’t even put in the easy ones. We couldn’t get over the hump in the first half.”
The Lady Cavaliers were a strong shooting team throughout the season.
“We’ve shot well all season,” said coach Gillies. “It’s a tough day to not shoot good.”
It was the final game in the high school careers of seniors Jordan Gillies and Cassie Gallagher.
“They started with seven or eight kids in their class and they just stayed the course,” said coach Gillies. “Their leadership together (was great). Nobody thought we were going to get back here. It just speaks volumes to what they were able to do. It’s where we want the program to be. Graduating two like this.”
Jordan Gillies reiterated there was a mindset shift in the program during her years at CHS.
“My freshman and sophomore year we had nothing to lose. Cookeville didn’t have a name,” said Jordan Gillies. “It was just play as hard as you can… this year we wrote on our board ‘get to state’ and below it ‘win state’. It was more than just getting here. Our mindset completely changed.”
While losing their senior leaders, the Lady Cavs will return a talented freshman through junior class next season.
The Lady Cavaliers finished the season with a 31-5 overall record. They were the District 9/4A regular season and tournament champions, Region 5/4A champions, and made the fourth appearance in the state tournament in school history. They won their second tournament game in school history with their win over Blackman on Wednesday.
By Rusty Ellis
By Michael Lindsay
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