Cleveland established itself early, and Walker Valley threatened late, but ultimately it was the Lady Raiders who walked off the court with a 42-35 victory.
“I felt this game was a lot cleaner than the last time we played Walker Valley at Cleveland. Defensively we played a really good ball game. Offensively we were able to get to the rim some and knock down a couple 3s,” stated Lady Raider coach Mindy Kiser.
Play got off to a slow start as both teams struggled to find any kind of offense. Rebounds were in abundance as forced shots banged off the backboard.
In a stroke of early game heroics, Cleveland’s Sydnie Anderson charged down the floor with seconds left on the clock to put in a layup and knot the score 6-6 at the end of the first quarter.
When the buzzer sounded and the second period started the Lady Raiders caught fire, doubling Lady Mustang scoring in the period and establishing a solid 22-14 lead entering the half.
Walker Valley’s Jaclyn Griffith did her part to give the Lady Mustangs some momentum, burying two big 3-pointers in the first half to give her team some life and keep it in the game.
In an effort to calm her team down, Lady Mustang coach Jessica Stone spoke with her girls for almost the entire halftime break, and it appeared to pay off when Walker Valley retook the floor.
“We calmed the girls down at the half. We put an emphasis on rebounding well and keeping their heads in the game. We said we needed to speed up Cleveland to try and force them into some mistakes,” explained Stone.
Offensive production hit a game high as both teams traded volleys and found the bucket one way or another.
The Lady Mustangs took a slight edge in the third quarter and narrowed the Cleveland lead to 34-28, and looked poised to make a run at the Lady Raiders late.
“That’s been our team all season. All season we have been up and down, up and down. The girls just really need to have the ability to understand when certain things need to be done and when certain things don’t need to be done,” stated Stone.
With 1:22 left to play Walker Valley’s Lindsey Macon banked in a long-range 3 over the defense to bring the Lady Mustangs within a possession.
Yet, it was all for naught as the Lady Raiders notched their last four free-throws to put the game out of reach and finish with a 42-35 win.
“We stepped up and hit some key free throws; some of those came from the bench as well. I liked our energy. We played the way we wanted to play,” said Kiser.
Walker Valley’s Griffith led all scoring with 13 points. She was the only player to reach double figures for either team.
Cleveland will close out the regular season with a home stand that kicks off with its last district game against Ooltewah Friday.
The Mustangs will travel to Soddy-Daisy Friday to face off against the Trojans before hosting McMinn Central on Saturday.
Cleveland 6 16 12 8 — 42
Walker Valley 6 8 14 7 — 35
Lady Raiders (43) — Berry 9, Ware 4, Scoggins 9, A. Muhammad 8, Q. Muhammad 5, Anderson 8.
Lady Mustangs (35) — Jaclyn Griffith 13, Macon 9, Stepp 5, Watson 4, Sotuyo 4.
3-point Goals: Cleveland 2 (Berry); Walker Valley 5 (Griffith 3, Macon, Stepp).
Free Throws: Cleveland 14-of-26; Walker Valley 6-of-11.
Records: Cleveland 13-7, 7-3 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 7-15, 2-6 District 5-AAA.