Such was the case Friday evening as the District 5-AAA Tournament finally got underway at East Hamilton High School with a half dozen opening round games.
Both third seeds had trouble fending off the No. 6 seeds as the Walker Valley girls got a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds left to thwart Soddy-Daisy’s upset effort by a 55-53 tally, while the Cleveland High boys had to rally from an 11-point third period deficit to nip the host Hurricanes 66-64.
The other four games went pretty much as expected with fourth seeds Cleveland girls and Walker Valley boys both breezing past the No. 5 seeds.
The Lady Raiders extended a 10-point halftime advantage to a 68-33 blow out of Ooltewah, while the Mustangs were up by a dozen at the first horn and galloped to their highest offensive output of the season with an 89-63 victory over Soddy-Daisy.
In the 2 verses 7 games, the McMinn County girls rolled past East Hamilton 54-38, while the Ooltewah boys brought the Cherokee season to a close with a 78-58 final.
All six of Friday’s victors earned berths into the Region 3-AAA Tournament, which will begin Friday evening, plus advanced to Saturday’s district semifinals. (See related story on page 17).
LADY MUSTANGS 55
LADY TROJANS 53
After blowing out Soddy-Daisy (7-20) by 41 and 35 points during the regular season, Walker Valley (18-10) admittedly were already looking ahead to paying back McMinn County for a couple of earlier losses.
“We have no excuses. It was my fault. We had beaten them (SD) easily in the regular season and I had already been looking at film of McMinn County,” confessed Lady Mustang head coach Jessica Stone.
“This just goes to prove you better be prepared to play every time you take the court,” she added. “You can’t afford to look past anybody.”
After both teams netted 10 points in the opening period, Walker Valley got a little breathing room by holding the Lady Trojans to just two points in the second frame, while putting up another 10 points themselves.
“We were up eight at the half, but then they (SD) started hitting their shots in the third (period) and went on a run,” Coach Stone explained.
Soddy exploded for a 26-12 run during the eight-minute span to put the Lady Mustangs in a six-point hole heading into the final frame.
Coach Stone’s “fillies” responded with a 23-point quarter of their own, with Jaclyn Griffith draining a big 3-pointer to tie the game with 30 ticks on the clock.
Griffith would turn out to be the game’s hero a moment later when she pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled trying to put the ball back in the hole.
With just a hair over two seconds remaining, the junior cooly sank the resulting free throws for her 10th and 11th points on the night to secure the victory.
“My hats off to Soddy. They played their hearts out,” commented Coach Stone. “I’m really proud of our girls for fighting back and pulling this one out.”
Tennessee Wesleyan signee Peyton Davis paced the Lady Mustangs with 16 points, including four bombs from beyond the arc.
Sophomore Kat Alomar helped out with 14 points in the victory.
BLUE RAIDERS 66
After having split the regular season matchups with East Hamilton, Cleveland head coach Jason McCowan knew having to face the Hurricanes on its home floor was going to be tough.
“They beat us the last time we were down here. They had my full attention,” he stated. “They pounced on us pretty good, especially with that run in the third period that put us down by 11.”
After the Raiders (16-7) trailed by three at the first buzzer, the teams matched each other basket-for-basket in the second frame.
Each team hit their first shot of the second half before the hosts exploded for a 15-7 scoring spurt to go up by double digits with 2:35 left in the third period.
McCowan called a timeout and told his players to “calm down and quit trying to force it.”
“We switched up our press and changed the pace of our play at that point and got back in it,” he related.
The changes worked as the Raiders netted the final 10 points of the quarter to pull within a point.
When junior TyQwan Ware hit a driving jumper to open the final frame to complete a 12-0 run, Cleveland had just its third lead of the contest.
The teams jockeyed back-and-forth until the score stood at 55-all before sophomore Cantrel Ware drained a 3-pointer with 5:05 to play to put the Raiders ahead for good.
Although East Hamilton (6-21) drained four of their final five shots from the field, Cleveland was able to seal the win at the free throw line, sinking 6-of-10 down the stretch.
Senior Kendrick Thompson paced the victory with a game-high 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Cantrel Ware pumped in 16 points, snatched a trio of caroms, gave out two helps and copped a pair of steals.
Both teams hit 15 shots from in front of the arc, while the Raiders had eight “treys,” to seven for the hosts.
The Hurricanes held a narrow edge at the free foul line, going 13-for-19, while Cleveland was 12-of-21.
MUSTANGS 89, TROJANS 63
After a three-point game the first time they met this season, Walker Valley (19-9) downed Soddy-Daisy (12-14) by 22 and 26 in their last two games.
Charging out of the gate to a 22-9 edge at the quarter pole, the Mustangs saw their lead trimmed back to single digits (35-26) at the halfway mark.
Coming out of the locker rooms after the break, Walker Valley exploded on a 25-8 run and then used a 16-7 fourth quarter spurt to seal a spot in its third straight region tournament.
Senior Brandon Crews played the sweet string music to the tune of 30 points, including a half dozen of his signature long-range bombs.
With five players scoring in double figures, the defending district champions got 13 each from seniors Austin Harwood and Dustin Swafford, while classmate Lukas Korn added a dozen and freshman Bryce Nunnelly 11.
Swafford also cleaned the glass for nine rebounds and copped four steals, while Korn pulled away seven ricochets and blocked a half dozen shots.
As a team, Walker Valley made 67 percent (29-of-43) of its shots from in front of the 19-foot arc and 47 percent (7-for-15) from beyond it, plus sank 10-of-12 free throws.
The Mustangs also won the rebounding battle by a 31-24 margin and turned the ball over just six times.
LADY RAIDERS 68
LADY OWLS 33
Having split their two regular season meetings, Cleveland (13-12) wanted to get off to a strong start and it did, netting 12 of the game’s opening 16 points.
Ooltewah (5-15) kept pace in the second frame as the deficit increased by just a basket during the second period, leaving the Lady Raiders with a 29-19 edge at the intermission.
Cleveland quickly pushed the difference past the 20-point mark by netting the first 11 points of the second half and then capped its best offensive output of the campaign with a 23-7 final period run.
“After going 13 straight days with either a game or practice, we definitely got rested this week,” commented Lady Raider head coach Mindy Kiser. “Everybody was a little on edge to get to play and we had one of our best performances of the season.”
“We shot the ball well and did a good job of dictating the tone and pace of the game, plus we dominated the boards (48-17),” she added.
Cleveland did get a scare late in the third period when Grambling State University signee Nora Berry went to the floor and had to be helped off.
“She (Berry) hyperextended her knee when that girl ran into her. We don’t think she’s hurt too bad, but she’ll be sore” explained Coach Kiser, whose lineup was already minus freshman Sophia Stamatiadis, who had an appendectomy Monday.
Despite missing a period and a half, Berry led all scorers with 22 points, including four NBA-range 3-pointers, plus she grabbed five rebounds.
Also draining a pair of “treys,” junior Jenna Scoggins pumped in 21 points, cleared a half dozen caroms and dished off a trio of assists.
Junior Jamiyah Person just missed a double-double with nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Junior Sarah Crump didn’t score any points, but was busy elsewise with six ricochets, four steals and four helps, while classmate Hallea McClendon cleared five boards.
Bre Ware helped out with eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a couple of steals in the victory.
Soddy-Daisy 10 2 26 15 — 53
Walker Valley 10 10 12 23 — 55
LADY TROJANS (53) — Hannah Harris 12,Shana Ward 12, Smith 7, King 5, Phillips 5, Hale 5, Hopkins 3, Hancock 2.
LADY MUSTANGS (55) — Peyton Davis 16, Kathleen Alomar 14, Jaclyn Griffith 11, Macon 7, Jones 5, Spann 2, Mowery 2.
3-Point Goals: SD 7 (King 4, Harris, Hale, Phillips); WV 8 (Davis 4, Jones, Macon, Griffith, Alomar).
Records: Soddy-Daisy 7-20; Walker Valley 18-10.
Ooltewah 4 15 6 7 — 33
Cleveland 12 17 16 23 —68
LADY OWLS (33) — Reghan Jones 10, Thompson 9, Cox 8 A. Jones 3, Cooper 2, Reed 1, Cain, Taylor, H. Hall, Henderson, Baker, Corley .
LADY RAIDERS (68) — Nora Berry 22, Jenna Scoggins 21, Person 9, Ware 8, Walkup 3, McClendon 3, Burton 2, Crump, Morman, Phillips.
3-Point Goals: Ooltewah none; Cleveland 8 (Berry 4, Scoggins 2, Ware, Walkup).
Free Throws: Ooltewah 13-of-23; Cleveland 16-of-22.
Records: Ooltewah 5-15; Cleveland 13-12.
East Hamilton 6 11 14 7 — 38
McMinn County 18 10 15 11 — 54
LADY HURRICANES (38) — Lexi Zackary 11, Stovall 9, Woods 5, Caudle 5, Howard 5, Denton 2, Zeh 1, Black, Pettit.
LADY CHEROKEES (54) — Rachel Burke 16, Rachel Simbeck 12, KeKe Smith 10, Carnett, Wilson 7, Robinson 6, Maddron 3, Dispensa 3, Kelley 2, Montgomery, Thompson, Sliger.
3-Point Goals – EH 3 (Zackary 2, Woods); McMinn 4 (Wilson 2, Smith 2).
Records: East Hamilton 4-23; McMinn County 10-16.
East Hamilton 12 21 17 14 — 64
Cleveland 9 21 19 17 — 66
HURRICANES (64) — Kenny Bunton 17, Tracy Thompson 13, James Wright 12, Sparks 8, Brower 6, Lowery 4, Wingard 2, Griffith 2, Beach, Chacko.
BLUE RAIDERS (66) — Kendrick Thompson 21, Cantrel Ware 16, Beaty 8, Brown 6, T. Ware 4, Dennard 4, Gibson 3, Tatum 2, Vecchio 2.
3-Point Goals: EH 7 (Thompson 2, Bunton 2, Wright 2, Brower); Cleveland 8 (Thompson 4, Brown 2, Gibson, C. Ware).
Free throws: EH 13-of-19; Cleveland 12-of-21.
Records: East Hamilton 6-21; Cleveland 16-7.
Soddy-Daisy 9 17 13 24 — 63
Walker Valley 22 13 25 29 — 89
TROJANS (63) — James York 19, Andy Wright 15, Tucker Landreth 10, Carter 6, Jeffries 5, Floyd 5, Amos 3, Whymer.
MUSTANGS (89) — Brandon Crews 30, Austin Harwood 13, Dustin Swafford 13, Lukas Korn 12, Bryce Nunnelly 11, Williams 4, Morrow 2, Jones 2, B. Swafford 2, C. Melton, L. Melton, Herd, Montgomery, Conway.
3-Point Goals: SD 4 (Wright 2, York, Floyd); WV 7 (Crews 6, Nunnelly).
Free throws: SD 20-of-26; WV 10-of-12.
Records: Soddy-Daisy 12-14; Walker Valley 19-9.
McMinn County 14 12 16 16 — 58
Ooltewah 22 21 18 17 — 78
CHEROKEES (58) — Brian Armstrong 14, Rob Claxton 11, Spradling 9, Martin 7, Brown 5, Edgeman 4, Lawson 3, Simpson 2, Hammons 2, Marshall 1.
OWLS (78) — Jarek Boyd 20, Jaymeal Johnson 19, Ron King 14, Ben Snider 16, Montgomery 4, Williams 3, Cothran 2, Ross, Freeman, Jones, Ross.
3-Point Goals: McMinn 5 (Spradling 2, Brown, Lawson, Armstrong); Ooltewah 4 (Johnson 2, King 2).
Records: McMinn County 3-22; Ooltewah 15-9.