BY JESSE SMITHEY
MURFREESBORO — Hello again, state semifinals.
Down four early in the second half, the Bearden boys’ basketball team flipped the switch on an out-matched Franklin team in the third quarter, and that 27-2 run sent the Bulldogs on their way to a 76-46 win in Wednesday’s Class AAA state quarterfinals.
Bearden (30-5) ran its win streak to 18 games and will face Whitehaven (25-7) — last year’s Class AAA state runner-up — in a state semifinal at 1:15 p.m. Central on Friday.
Bearden is after its first state championship in program history and returned its starting lineup from last season, when they reached the state semifinals but lost to eventual state-champ Memphis East.
All those stars had their shine Wednesday against Franklin (28-7), as all five starters were in double figures.
Vols signee Drew Pember had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Mr. Basketball finalist Ques Glover finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Trent Stephney, a senior guard, led Bearden with 16 points and eight assists.
Roman Robinson hit four 3s and scored 14 points, and post Shamarcus Brown added 12 points.
“Boy, it happened fast,” said Franklin coach Darren Joines. “Once they got it going, it was hard to get that stop.”
Franklin led Bearden 23-21 with roughly 5 minutes left in the third quarter and you wondered how or when the Bulldogs might ignite. But a 3 from Stephney, a 3-point play from Pember and a fast-break dunk by Stephney helped manufacture a 10-0 spurt with 3:50 left in the third that gave Bearden a 31-23 lead.
But that run wasn’t done.
Robinson added a 3, Glover a mid-range jumper and Brown a post score shortly after for a 38-23 lead with 2:20 left in the third.
Still not done.
And then Robinson struck again. His 3 from the corner at the 1:13 mark in the third extended the run to 22-0 for a 43-23 lead.
Stephney’s steal and backwards dunk pushed the run to 24-0. Franklin finally stopped it with Ahsharri Haynesworth’s foul shots with 38 seconds left in the third.
But that stoppage was temporary. Robinson hit his third 3 of the quarter.
Let’s recap: First 19 minutes of the game, Bearden scored 21 points. The final five minutes of the third quarter, they scored 27 — and led 48-25 with one quarter to go.
All told, Bearden shot 71.4 percent and scored 57 points in the second half. They even turned Franklin over 23 times.
“It’s our senior year. We got to give it everything we got on our last ride,” said Pember. “You just got to have energy. You have to be intense. That’s one thing we had tonight that helped us a lot.”
Reese Glover, a 5-10 guard from Franklin, was the focal point of Bearden’s defense in the first half. He buried a 3 early in the first quarter and, in an intimidation attempt, stared Ques Glover down to the other end of the court as Glover walked the ball back to Bearden’s end.
“Me and Reese played a lot against each other in AAU season, and we talked a lot of trash,” said Ques Glover. “But it’s all love. He made a big shot and looked at me. I respect it.”
But Reese Glover finished the first half 2-for-8, though he made a 3 with 2 seconds left in the second quarter to put the Rebels ahead 21-19.
Still, he had made nine 3s in his last game and wasn’t the same factor against Bearden. He finished with 24 points Wednesday but hit garbage 3s late to bolster his totals.
Bearden now turns its attention to Whitehaven, as the Bulldogs will try to knock off the Tigers and return to the state finals for the first time since 2011.
Whitehaven eliminated Sevier County on Wednesday, 60-24.
“I never peek. But I did in this case,” said Bearden coach Jeremy Parrott. “I peeked and watched a game or two (of Whitehaven’s). They are a formidable opponent. They guard intensely and well. Not to mention (Matthew) Murrell, who’s a great player – four-star in recruiting. And 7-4 (Jordan Wilmore)? I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that.
“They present a very big challenge for us. But I think this group’s ready.