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Success in classroom leading to wins for Bearden girls basketball team

With a 4.1 team GPA, the 19-1 Lady Bulldogs are hitting their shots and their books.
Published: Feb. 6, 2021 at 11:46 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - There’s this saying in basketball that good defense leads to good offense.

While that’s true of the 19-1 Bearden girls basketball team, there’s something happening off the court that’s assisted in their winning ways this season.

“Our team GPA is 4.1. They’re phenomenal students first and foremost,” said head coach Justin Underwood. The tenth-year skipper believes this is his most well-rounded group to date.

“I think female athletes, especially at the high school level can balance that and then athletics and sometimes jobs and clubs - you name it, they seem to be having a lot of things on their plate at once and are doing it all at a high level.”

Like a big post player, that work ethic in the classroom has a far-reaching effect on the court.

“My parents hold me to a high standard with my grades and so when I get home I’m just like ‘I’ve got to do this’ and I think that carries over into everybody else as well,” said senior guard Zneyah McLaughlin

From starters to bench players, everyone plays a role - especially in a year when crowds are limited.

“We have to create the environments we’ve been used to the last few years - the loud gym - we have to create that. It’s honestly great because you hear words of encouragement,” McLaughlin said.

It’s not just players’ parents who see the importance of a good education - Underwood works as a physical education teacher at Bearden and knows there’s a connection between that high GPA and high expectations on the court.

“If you can be a good teammate in a high school setting, you’re going to learn how to work in a company, how to be a parent - different things like that that will serve you in life. We’re very blessed, we have a lot of good kids this year,” said Underwood.

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