By PATRICK MacCOON
With a road warrior mentality, Cleveland traveled north to Athens and was able to land a sweep.The fourth-ranked Blue Raiders extended their win streak to 11 games with a 19-point victory, but it was …
With a road warrior mentality, Cleveland traveled north to Athens and was able to land a sweep.
The fourth-ranked Blue Raiders extended their win streak to 11 games with a 19-point victory, but it was the early battle that turned heads Friday night.
While sophomore Bailey Anderson was soft-spoken after Cleveland’s 59-54 upset District 5-AAA victory on the road over McMinn County, her play was anything but quiet.
A week after being a part of a 49-point loss to Bradley Central, the 5-foot-4 Lady Raider point guard responded to a challenging week of practice with one of the highlight performances of her career.
Even with size not on her side, Anderson sprung as high as she could to tip an offensive rebound to her teammate before she drained a three from the right corner for a 53-44 lead with 2:12 left to play.
With demoralizing defense she also forced a Lady Cherokee to lose the ball out of bounds near mid court, a decisive stop that helped seal a crucial victory over an opponent who had defeated Class AAA’s fourth-ranked East Hamilton, 56-51, earlier in the week.
“To be honest, I didn’t know we had it in us,” said Anderson, who scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half, while adding six rebounds, four steals and three dimes. “But we went out there and gave it our all. We pulled through and this is a big win.”
With a completely different poise a week after laying a goose egg against the No. 1 Bearettes, Cleveland (10-8, 4-2 5-AAA) produced a complete team effort.
In big road victories over Walker Valley and now McMinn County (11-4, 4-2) this season, junior guard Madison Dasher is 12-of-17 from 3-point range.
Her fifth and final triple of the night came off a heads up find by Braylee Franklin, who drove in and dished out to the top left of the arc to make for a 50-42 lead.
“We all came together at the perfect time,” said the Lady Raiders’ leading scorer Dasher, who dropped a game-high 17 points. “We have overcome a lot in the last week and have set up a chance to grab a hold of the No. 2 seed Tuesday.”
With a three-way tie for second place in the 5-AAA standings between Cleveland, East Hamilton and McMinn County, a second meeting with the Lady Hurricanes upcoming should provide plenty of dramatics.
For experienced leader Emma Flowers, who scored three straight buckets to begin the fourth quarter to finish with 10 points and 10 rebounds, she has a great deal of confidence in her squad.
“I felt like we did a good job of slowing down, taking a deep breath and knowing we had it in the bag tonight,” Flowers said. “We worked hard for this and really prepared. I wouldn’t trade this team for the world. Every single one of our girls give it their all every night. I am proud of them.”
Flowers, Anderson and Dasher combined for 29 points in a 32-point second half for CHS.
While only trailing once in the second half soon after the break, which had the Lady Raiders ahead 27-25 at the half, a quiet start offensively was overcome by a freshman scorer.
A slow first quarter for both sides saw each score a mere seven points over the first eight minutes, but Joy Douglass hit that mark quickly with strong moves to the hoop after subbing back in.
With a great deal of strength for a first-year player, the slashing guard scored seven straight from 6:47 to the 4:59 mark in the second quarter. Her scoring run was capped as she broke a defender at the top of the key and hit a layup to tie things at 16-all.
Fellow CHS freshman Kara Williams broke a tie with a left corner 3-pointer, as Flowers opened up the outside as she kicked the ball out of the paint with Dasher assisting the score to go ahead 21-18 with 2:51 left before halftime.
“You think about all the different impacts that players had on our roster tonight and it’s an amazing thing to see as a coach,” said Williams. “We don’t have a selfish player on our team and I can say that without any doubt. Our girls love playing together and for each other.”
Another key to victory was the defensive toughness shown by the Lady Raiders.
After Lady Cherokee standout Kaylen Hicks dropped 16 points and four 3-pointers in the first half, the talented shooting guard was held scoreless in the second half as the Lady Raiders shaded to her in their match up zone.
“We thought all along that the second through fifth seed was a coin toss,” Williams said. “You have to show up and play every game against East Hamilton, Walker Valley, McMinn and against us. There are no cakewalks, you have to bring it.”
With regained confidence and toughness building, Cleveland looks forward to the challenge ahead on the road against East Hamilton.
“I want to thank God for the opportunity to let me coach basketball here,” said Williams, who is now 21-23 overall with a 9-9 mark in district play into his second season at CHS. “I love these kids, the parents and the support I get from our principal. We are trying to build something special.”
BLUE RAIDERS 79, CHEROKEES 59
Cleveland continues to assert its will against district opponents as they drive to lock up a region berth with a top two finish in the regular season standings.
As the lone undefeated team in 5-AAA at 6-0, Jason McCowan’s experienced team is outscoring league opponents 75-46.3 on average.
Dionte Ware bounced back from a tough outing earlier in the week to score a game-high 27 points all from inside the 3-point line.
“Our big emphasis was making sure the ball went through Dionte,” said McCowan, who tied his longest win streak at 11 in his eleventh year at the helm. “We have to be consistent in looking for him offensively. He is someone we want to get going every night.”
Ware, who averages over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, has interest from several major Division I programs such as: North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Clemson, Wichita State, Creighton, Middle Tennessee, UTC and Central Florida.
The Blue Raiders only attempted six free throws earlier in the week, but were aggressive and made 18-of-22 from the charity stripe to keep its season percentage above 67 percent.
While McMinn made 8-of-11 from the line in the second quarter, Cleveland led 38-28 at the break and shored up its defensive breakdowns in the second half.
CHS overcame the absence of backup guard Isaiah Johnson, who sat out with a minor injury.
The Blue Raiders are now 13-2 for the second season in a row after losing five players off last year’s team, which included KK Curry.
The Cherokees fell to 5-11 overall and were overtaken by Walker Valley for third place in 5-AAA standings.
Sophomore point guard Jacobi Wood scored 12 points and was sharp with his passes and on defense, as he had five dimes and four steals. Wood leads the team with over two steals per game this season.
Fellow seniors Deontae Davis and Mullek Bradford added 15 and 11, respectively, while freshman Grant Hurst scored a career-high nine points.
“The thing I have noticed over this win streak is we have someone different stepping up every night,” said McCowan, who now has 197 career wins at CHS and 211 overall. “Grant gave us a good spark off the bench with Deontae having four fouls. Anybody can step up for us on any given night.”
Cleveland’s matchup with first-ranked Van Buren has been postponed to a later date at UTC’s Maclellan Gymnasium.
The Blue Raiders face a tough road test against the Hurricanes (16-3, 5-1) Tuesday.
East Hamilton point guard Justin Dozier scored 24 points in an 82-77 victory at Ooltewah Friday night.
Cleveland won the first battle of the season with the district’s other top dog, 66-42, back on Dec. 1 and had their number in the 5-AAA championship game last season too with a 77-47 win.
LADY RAIDERS (59): Madison Dasher 17, Bailey Anderson 15, Emma Flowers 10, Douglass 8, Reed 4, Williams 3, Langford 2, Rominger, Franklin, Callahan, Droke.
LADY CHEROKEES (54): Kaylen Hicks 16, Kaitlynn Hennessee 12, Gleaton 11, Liner 9, Burns 3, Green 2, Baxter 1.
3-Pointers: CHS 6 (Dasher 5, Williams); MC 7 (Hicks 4, Liner 3)
Free Throws: CHS 11-of-18; MC 11-of-17
Records: Cleveland 10-8, 4-2 5-AAA; McMinn County 11-4, 4-2 5-AAA.
Cleveland;18;20;20;21 — 79
McMinn County;13;15;17;14 — 60
BLUE RAIDERS (79): Dionte Ware 27, Deontae Davis 15, Jacobi Wood 12, Mullek Bradford 11, Hurst 9, Wykle 3, Howard 2, Black, McGowan, Patterson, Lay, Colbaugh.
CHEROKEES (60): Sam Hammonds 13, Matt Eaton 13, Taurean Jones 10, Evans 9, Bradley 5, Wilson 3, Sharp 2, Eli 2, Brown 2, Runyan 1.
3-Pointers: CHS 5 (Davis 2, Hurst, Wykle, Wood); MC 3 (Evans 2, Hammonds)
Free Throws: CHS 18-of-22; MC 17-of-28
Records: Cleveland 13-2, 6-0 5-AAA; McMinn County 5-11, 3-3 5-AAA
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