The Lady Raiders (5-2, 1-1 District 5-AAA) fought through a lack of energy and focus along with poor free-throw shooting and found a way in the end to pull off a win over the Lady Tribe (5-3, 2-1).
"We didn't start out with very much energy. I don't know where that comes from. We've had a really long stretch with lots of games, lots of practice, injuries and illness. This was kind of the end of that two, two-and-a-half week stretch. We kind of came out a little bit flat," said Lady Raiders coach Mindy Kiser.
“Jordan Capron got hurt in the middle of the week, and I had some sick right before the game started. We were a little flat and I thought we were a little hesitant. We missed a lot of free throws early. But, we were able to hang in there."
Cleveland failed on 5-of-6 tries from the line in the first quarter but recovered to hit 4-of-6 in the second. The Lady Raiders scratched back from a 10-6 first quarter deficit and trailed by one, 20-19 at halftime.
"We talked at halftime about our defensive effort playing as a unit making sure we were staying in front of the ball. We're not perfect and I think we worked pretty hard to stay in front and do the things we needed to do to win," Kiser said.
Sydnie Anderson, who opened the game for Cleveland with a 3-pointer, lifted in another 3 to start the second half.
Anderson led the Lady Raiders with 15 points. Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad scored 14 and Shawnia Anderson hit double figures with 11.
The fourth quarter started with the Lady Raiders down by one, 30-29.
Anderson gave the Lady Raiders a 32-20 lead early in the period, but McMinn came right back to retake the lead minutes later. Anderson again came through with a layup and free throw to put Cleveland back on top with 3:22 left to play.
McMinn tied it up twice more before Abdullah-Muhammad put the Lady Raiders out front for good with 1:12 left. Cleveland added two more free throws and Shawnia Anderson two from the floor to seal the win.
"We hit free throws down the stretch. We got into some crazy foul trouble and we weren't helping ourselves. They missed some shots and we were able to grab some rebounds, pick each other up and fight through some of the misses and missed communications on defense," said Kiser.
"I'm really happy with the way we played in the second half, no question about that. We stretched it, they came back and took the lead and we were able to get it back and stretch it. It wasn't a pretty end, but it was a good end to a really tough stretch for us."
Blue Raiders 61
The Blue Raiders closed out the sweep with an ugly win, but a win nonetheless, according to head coach Jason McCowan.
"We played hard defensively. We were engaged. Our shots weren't going down for us and it felt like the frustration just kept boiling over and over. We just couldn't get out of that funk. I feel fortunate we won the game. It wasn't pretty at all. I take complete blame for that. We are going to get back to work and sharpen things up," he said.
C.J. Bryant led the Cleveland effort. He was the only Blue Raider to reach double figures.
It was less than apparent early on that anyone would hit the double-figure mark for Cleveland. The Raiders (5-0, 2-0 District 5-AAA) scored a single point from the free-throw line at the 6:45 mark of the first quarter and struggled from the field to find the basket for three minutes, until a Bryant steal and score broke the drought. D.J. Jones added a 3 and the Raiders scored 10 of the final 12 points of the first quarter to lead 11-7.
The Raiders continued to struggle in the second quarter, getting only a 3 by Kendrick Thompson in the first five minutes. Thompson's second 3 of the period put Cleveland up 17-8 and the Raiders held off an also struggling McMinn County (3-5, 1-2) to lead 24-14 at halftime.
“I think we set the game back 20-something years offensively by missing layups, missing 3s and missing 12 free throws,” joked McCowan. “Our team has just got to focus better and make the easy ones," said.
The focus was on in the third quarter for the Raiders. D.J. Jones hit back-to-back 3s and Bryant added two more to help Cleveland build a 14-point lead at the end of the quarter.
That lead quickly disappeared after the Tribe opened the fourth with 10 straight points. Thompson finally broke the scoring breakdown with two points three minutes into the period.
"I felt we played outstanding defensively until the fourth quarter," McCowan said of the sudden turnaround. "They learned if you let somebody stick around it's going to be a battle at the end. We had a lot of momentum going against us and I'm glad we were able to weather that storm. But, we put ourselves in that situation.
With the Raiders back on track defensively, The Cherokees managed only six points in the final four minutes. Cleveland locked up the win with six points from the free-throw line in the last two minutes.
"To be honest I don't know what we were thinking (defensively). It gets to a point in the game where the other team feels like it has a shot. I felt like if they hit a 3 or got a three-point play, which they did, they would feel like they could get back in it. They were kind of beaten and battered all game long, but we never put them away. We opened the door for them and they did a good job of stepping through that door," said McCowan.
"It was kind of the light-switch mentality. If you turn it off, you can't turn it back on. I felt like the light switch was on for three quarters.
LADY RAIDERS 46, LADY CHEROKEES 41
Cleveland 6 13 12 15 — 46
McMinn County 10 10 10 11 — 41
LADY RAIDERS (46) — Sydnie Anderson 15, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 14, Shawnia Anderson 10, Berry 3, McLendon 2, Scoggins, Crump.
LADY CHEROKEES (41) — Haley Ward 12, Keke Smith 12, Burke 2, Guardolia 6, Dispensa 4, Simbeck 4, Robinson, Thompson.
3-point goals: Cleveland 2 (Sydnie Anderson); McMinn County 1 (Ware).
Records: Cleveland 5-2, 1-1 District 5-AAA; McMinn County 5-3, 2-1.
BLUE RAIDERS 61, CHEROKEES 48
Cleveland 11 13 20 17 — 61
McMinn County 7 7 16 18 — 48
BLUE RAIDERS (61) — C.J. Bryant 19, Ware 7, Thompson 9, Beaty 5, Little 3, Johnson 8, Jones 9, Brown, Scott, McCree..
CHEROKEES (48) — Austin Hayes 14, Javen Thompson 14, B. Marshall 3, Sanders 2, Martin 5, Arnwine, L. Marshall, Edgemon, Hammonds, Armstrong.
3-point goals: Cleveland 7 (Jones 3, Bryant 3, Ware); McMinn County 4 (Hayes 2, Marshall, Thompson).
Records: Cleveland 5-0, 2-0 District 5-AAA; McMinn County 5-3, 2-1.