While the Cleveland High girls basketball team took a step forward Friday night, the rowdy Raiders stumbled as Rhea County swooped in for an upset.
After an unexpected week off and a heartbreaking loss Tuesday night in Athens, the Lady Raiders finished the week with back-to-back wins, including a 41-31 win over the Lady Eagles at the Dome Friday. Cleveland blasted East Hamilton 54-38 Thursday.
“I was impressed by our ability to put Tuesday night behind us and come back with two good wins,” praised Lady Raider head coach Rachel Moore, who returned to the bench Friday after missing Thursday’s game due to illness.
“It says a lot about our maturity to overcome a week off and a tough loss like we have,” she added. “We are a different team than we were in early December. We are playing well. There’s no substitute for experience.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the Cleveland boys handed McMinn County its first District 5-AAA loss Tuesday evening, blew away the Hurricanes 84-43 Thursday evening but turned flat-footed against a group of fired-up Eagles Friday night.
The Raiders were able to trim a seven-point deficit to just a point in the final period but a pair of final shots were off the mark and Rhea County claimed the 53-51 upset.
Cleveland will return to district action Tuesday evening as Soddy-Daisy comes to town and then will travel to the southside of the city Friday for a showdown with archrival Bradley Central.
The Lady Raiders (9-8, 3-4 District 5-AAA) had a little trouble getting started Friday evening, hitting just one of their first six shots while Rhea County (8-9, 3-4) jumped out to a 9-3 lead.
Without hitting the panic button, coach Moore’s ladies responded by scoring the next eight points to take their first lead; however the Lady Eagles were able to hit a pair of baskets in the final 30 seconds of the opening frame to edge back up 13-11 at the buzzer.
Both teams struggled to find their range in the second frame, but Cleveland managed a 9-0 run before the visitors managed just a pair of free throws with 11 seconds on the clock. The Lady Raiders led 20-15 at intermission.
The two teams traded baskets in the third frame with the Lady Raiders adding another point to their lead by the end of the eight-minute span.
Cleveland used a 9-3 run during the final period to push its lead to a dozen before settling for the 10-point victory.
The Abdullah-Muhammad sisters led the way for the victors with sophomore Atarah pumping in 14 points and copping three steals while freshman Qetuwrah added a dozen points and four thefts.
Freshman Noraziah Berry collected nine points and cleaned the glass for seven rebounds, while sophomore Jordan Capron pulled down four boards.
“Qetuwrah has been consistent all season and now some of the other girls are playing well,” coach Moore expressed. “The last two or three games we’ve had different girls involved in the scoring.”
“We are playing better defense, making good decisions and executing well, and in turn that is helping us on the other end as well,” the coach added.
The Lady Raiders took advantage of 28 Rhea turnovers in the contest and hit 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Eagles 53, Raiders 51
After five lead changes and a half dozen ties in the opening half, Rhea County (8-9, 3-4) hit the first two baskets of the second half and the lead never changed hands again.
Pushing a 24-23 halftime advantage to 37-32 heading into the final frame, the Eagles made just two field goals in the final eight minutes but sealed the upset by sinking 12-of-17 free throws.
Trailing by seven points, D.J. Bowles drilled a 3-pointer with 4:25 left in the contest and then got a quick three-point play the old-fashioned way with a hoop and free throw after a steal and assist from teammate Jarod Rhodes to pull the Raiders within a point.
The Eagles then began the parade to the charity stripe and went back up by a half dozen points. Cleveland once again closed the gap to a single point and had a chance to tie the game with 15.5 seconds to go but could only convert one of two free throws.
After Rhea added its final free throw with 12.4 on the clock, the Raiders were able to get the ball downcourt and get off a 3-pointer from the top of the key but it bounced off. Tevin Rutledge was able to come up with the offensive rebound and get off one more shot that would have tied the game but it too drew iron as the final buzzer sounded.
Cleveland (11-5, 5-2) actually made more shots from the field than the visitors, hitting 14-of-35 from two-point land but only 4-for-22 from beyond the arc. Rhea County sank 3-of-6 long range bombs and 12-of-30 from close in.
The difference came at the free throw line, where the Eagles went 20-for-29, while the Raiders were just 11-of-18.
Cleveland won the turnover tally 16-9, but the Eagles took the battle of the boards by a 32-26 margin.
Rondazz Mee, B.J. Davis and Bowles each netted a dozen points for the Raiders, while Rhodes finished with eight points, seven boards and four assists. Caleb Hiddleson came off the bench to pull down five caroms.
The Eagles also had a trio of players score in double figures as Andrew Facciani posted a game-high 17, while Hunter Daniels and Jalen Smith came in with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Raiders 44, Eagles 35
A 19-9 first period advantage set the tone as the Cleveland JV boys claimed a 44-35 victory before the varsity action began Friday evening.
Austin Henrick led the way for the Raiders with a dozen points, while David Morgan and Taylor Rhodes netted 11 points apiece in the victory.
Rhea County 13 2 11 5 — 31
Cleveland 11 9 12 9 — 41
Lady Eagles (31) — Sarah Nixon 10, Hughey 9, Thompson 6, Brown 2, Miles 2, Hickey 2, Allen, Walker.
Lady Raiders (41) — Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad 14, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 12, Berry 9, Anderson 4, Capron 2, Langford, Perkins.
3-pointers: Rhea 2 (Hughey 2); Cleveland 1 (Berry).
Free Throws: Rhea 11-of-17; Cleveland 16-of-23.
Records: Rhea County 8-9, 3-4 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 9-8, 3-4 District 5-AAA.
Rhea County 13 11 13 16 — 53
Cleveland 13 10 9 19 — 51
Eagles (53) — Andrew Facciani 17, Hunter Daniels 12, Jalen Smith 10, Coleman 6, McWherter 5, Clark 3, Operman.
Raiders (51) —Rondazz Mee 12, D.J. Bowles 12, B.J. Davis 12, Rhodes 8, Rutledge 5, Robinson 2, Hiddleson, Upton.
3-pointers: Rhea 3 (Clark, Facciani, Smith); Cleveland 4 (Bowles 2, Mee, Rutledge).
Free Throws: Rhea 20-of-29; Cleveland 11-of-18.
Records: Rhea County 8-9, 3-4 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 11-5, 5-2 District 5-AAA.