The Mustangs (19-12) may have gotten the first points on the board, but it was the Owls (19-9) who came out on top 69-57 by the final buzzer.
Walker Valley coach Bob Williams’ team came into Tuesday’s game with a slight disadvantage, with a portion of his starting lineup being under the weather.
“Austin (Harwood) felt sick, (Lukas) Korn was sick, no excuses — Ooltewah played a good game. They made some huge shots and they outplayed us tonight. We didn’t give them our best game,” he remarked afterwards.
With the victory Ooltewah advances to Thursday’s region title game agaisnt Bradley Central, a 63-55 winner over Cleveland High in the other semifinal. Both the Owls and Bears also earn a spot in Monday’s TSSAA Sectional playoffs agaisnt either top-ranked and undefeated Blackman or sixth-ranked Siegel.
Despite feeling less than 100 percent, Lukas Korn was able to remain an immense presence during all four quarters of the game, leading the Mustangs with 19 points, 12 rebounds and handing out a pair of assists.
The first period started in Walker Valley’s favor, but with 5 1/2 minutes left Ooltewah was able to tie the game up 4-4 before there was a 10-minute delay of game due to a Mustang becoming sick on the court.
Even though he was ill early on in the game, Harwood was able to come back out and get six points, three rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
Once the game started back up and Ooltewah was able to take the lead, they never relinquished it again.
The Mustangs trailed the Owls 17-12 going into the second period, and were unable to get the points needed to stage a comeback going into the second half.
After trailing 33-26 at the intermission, the Navy-and-Gold was able to trim the difference to just four points once in the third period and again early in the fourth but that was as close as they would come.
The Owls broke the game open with an 11-0 run midway throug the final frame and then finished out the victory from the free-throw line.
Walker Valley found themselves in some costly foul trouble throughout the night, as Ooltewah was 15-for-23 at the charity stripe. The Mustangs were 10-for-14 for free throws Tuesday night.
The Owls shot 53 percent from behind the 3-point line, hitting 8-of-15 shots. The Mustangs shot 28 percent, making just 4-of-14 treys.
Senior point guard Caio Hysinger was the second highest scorer for Walker Valley, with 13 points, plus he handed out three assists.
Daaron Maston and Antonio Jackson led the Owls with 20 and 16 points respectively.
Although the Mustangs’ season ended on a sour note, Williams was still impressed with his team and how far they had come.
“The guys finished the season great. Starting with winning the district tournament and getting as far as they did, coming as far as they have in that past couple years. When they (senior players) were sophomores they won five games, last year nine, and then doing what they did this year,” was an accomplishment, he said.
Despite losing five senior players come graduation time, the District 5-AAA coach of the year still has some things to look forward to with his returning players and those who are up and coming.
“Freshmen won their freshman tournament, JV team wasn’t too bad — a lot of juniors, and we’ve got a lot of things to be thankful for and to look forward to next year, because our seniors made us relevant again,” Williams commented after the game. “A couple years ago we weren’t relevant and that’s what I told them. I thanked them for making us relevant again, and making Walker Valley proud.”
Walker Valley 12 14 19 12 — 57
Ooltewah 17 16 20 16 — 69
MUSTANGS (57) — Luke Korn 19, Caio Hysinger 13, Godfrey 9, Harwood 6, Brownfield 6, Swafford 2, Melton 2, Hunt, Anthony, Cartwright, Morrow, Russell, Crews.
Owls (69) — Daaron Maston, Antonio Jackson 16, Jaqueze Robinson 13, Andrew Ware 10, Snider 7, King 3, Montgomery, Cothron, Bass, Carr, Boyd, Fritz, Turner, Hasonbegovic.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 4 (Hysinger 3, Godfrey); Ooltewah 8 (Maston 4, Snider, Robinson, Jackson, King)
Free throws: Walker Valley 10-of-14; Ooltewah 15-of-23.
Records: Walker Valley 19-12; Ooltewah 19-9.