Emotions ran high in a jam-packed "Stable" for Walker Valley's Senior Night Friday evening, but in the end highly-favored rival Cleveland High had too much for the Herds to overcome.
After an evenly fought opening period, the top-ranked Runnin' Raiders were perfect from the field in the second frame, before holding off a late Mustang charge that whittled a 19-point difference with six minutes to go to just a 68-63 tally at the final buzzer.
Likewise in the girls contest, the host Fillies held the lead at the first two horns, plus won the final frame, but a big third period charge was enough for the Lady Raiders to claim a 59-48 victory.
All four teams will now turn their attention to the District 5-AAA Tournament, which will tip off Wednesday at "The Stable," for the second time in three years.
Becoming just the second team in Cleveland High hoop history to go undefeated during the regular season, the top-seeded Raiders (28-0, 12-0) and second-seeded Lady Raiders (19-10, 9-3) earned automatic semifinal berths, as well as Region 3-AAA bids, and won't play until Saturday.
The Raiders will take on the winner of No. 4 Walker Valley (17-10, 6-6) and fifth-seeded East Hamilton (12-13, 6-6), which will battle Friday evening at 7:30.
The Lady Raiders (19-10, 9-3) will await the survivor of Wednesday's 6-7 game between Soddy-Daisy (8-18, 2-10) and Ooltewah (4-18, 0-12), who's victor will have to turn around to battle No. 3 East Hamilton (17-11, 9-3) Thursday to earn a spot in Saturday's semifinals.
The fifth-seeded Lady Mustangs (9-18, 4-8) will take their home hardwood Friday evening, facing No. 4 McMinn County (12-13, 6-6), with the winner getting a region berth and advancing to battle reigning state champion and No. 1 seed Bradley Central (23-3, 12-0) Saturday at 3:30.
Saturday's other semifinal has the second-seeded Bradley boys (19-5, 10-2), taking on either No. 3 McMinn County (16-9, 6-6), sixth-seeded Ooltewah (13-16, 2-10) or No. 7 Soddy-Daisy (8-18, 0-12). The Owls and Trojans square off Wednesday to see who faces the Cherokees Thursday.
RAIDERS 68, MUSTANGS 63
While District Coach of the Year Reggie Tucker wasn't happy with his squad giving up the late Stallion charge, the eyes of Rowdy Raider Nation were on the fact that Mr. Tennessee Basketball finalist JaCobi Wood wasn't on the court for the final frame.
"It didn't grind out like I wanted it to, but we got the win," proclaimed Tucker, whose uncle Greg Davis was on the undefeated 1968-69 Raider squad.
"Even with JaCobi on the bench, we're up 19 with six minutes to go and we've got to be able to hold onto that," he said of the Belmont signee being held out for precautionary reasons, after rolling his ankle in a second-period collision.
"We've had three all-district players and some other good players out there on the floor, so I felt confident we could hold it. I wasn't going to put JaCobi back in.
"That was kind of disappointing, but we got the 'W' and we're 28-0," the first-year head coach remarked.
Wood went out with 2:39 left in the first half after landing awkwardly on his ankle during the hard fall. After being looked at by the trainer on the bench, he was only out for 84 seconds of playing time, before returning to finish the quarter.
He played the entire third period, scoring one of his trio of treys, plus a fast break bucket to close the frame. Despite missing the final eight minutes, he posted a team-high 17 points, plus dished four assists and copped a pair of steals.
After the teams evenly split the 26 opening quarter points, Cleveland caught fire, drilling all seven shots from in front of the arc and three from beyond it, plus 4-of-5 free throws, for a 40-29 halftime advantage.
The visitors were able to tack on another four points to their lead in the third period, plus the two opening buckets of the final frame pushed the difference to its highest point at 19, causing Mustang head coach Will Campbell to call a timeout with 6:13 remaining.
From that point on, Cleveland went into a four-corners offense to run the clock and its final points came at the charity stripe, hitting 7-of-11 down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs hit a full gallop, pouring in 21 points, including four NBA-range bombs — three from senior Blake Campbell, including a bank-in from near mid-court at the final buzzer, and one from Bryan College commit Sam Belau.
Senior Shimiar Davis came off the bench and dominated the glass, pulling down 19 rebounds, including eight off the offensive boards, converting six of those into points as he finished with 18 markers for a double-double, plus blocked four shots.
"Jake Smith (the 6-foot-7 Mustang starting post) got in foul trouble and Shimier stepped up and played great," praised Coach Campbell.
"It was a good game. Both teams fought. I thought we made too many mistakes — fouls and turnovers.
"We let them go on a couple runs at the end of the second quarter and again at the end of the third. We just couldn't overcome those mistakes against a good team like Cleveland," the Mustang wrangler added.
"I love our fight though. We don't quit. We battled the whole game. I'm proud of our guys. I am looking forward to a fun district tourney."
Although his Herd struggled from close range (11-of-30, 37%), they bombed from distance" (10-for-15, 67%), plus made 12-of-16 (75%) from the stripe. WV won the battle of the boards by a 40-24 margin, but had 19 turnovers, compared to just seven by the Raiders.
Cleveland tickled the nylon on half (18-of-36) of their shots from inside the arc, and went 6-for-17 (35%) from "downtown," plus made 14-of-21 at the foul line.
With balanced scoring, all five Raider starters netted double figures with Wood being followed by junior Barkley McGowan with 15, including a pair of "triples" and going 5-for-5 at the free throw line. He also grabbed a half dozen caroms.
Classmate Michael Dale garnered 14 points, five ricochets and a pair of "swats," while senior Morrell Schramm added a dozen markers, pulled down eight boards dished five "dimes."
Junior Grant Hurst posted 10 points, three rebounds, two thefts and a help.
Blake Campbell led all scorers, drilling five "treys," plus 4-of-5 charity tosses on his way to 21 points, four caroms and a couple of assists.
Davis was the only other Mustang in double digits as senior Noah Duprey helped out with eight points and four boards, while Belau and sophomore Seth Sausville both drained a pair of 3-pointers for a half dozen markers each.
LADY RAIDERS 59
LADY MUSTANGS 48
Coming off back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday against teams that have been receiving votes in the weekly AP poll — upsetting Oak Ridge and falling to Maryville in overtime — the Cleveland starters struggled to get going as Walker Valley built a 7-2 lead before head coach Tony Williams pulled them and sat them for the remainder of the first half.
"I don't know if it was our legs or our brains," the Lady Raider mentor commented. "You've got to give credit to Drew (Lyness, the Lady Mustang coach) and Walker Valley, they came out on an emotional night and laid it all out on the line and played a great game.
"We've had a couple of tough games this week, plus this being a rivalry game, and trying to keep your kids focused, it is what it is."
The Lady Raider reserves did a good job of staying with the hosts, cutting the difference to just a point (12-11) at the first horn and trailing by only a bucket (27-25) at the intermission.
"The crazy thing about it is, on any of my other teams three of those freshmen and a couple of those sophomores probably would have been good enough to start. They are waiting for their opportunities and they got a chance tonight on a big stage, in front of a big crowd and performed well. I'm really proud of them."
Although the Lady Raiders struggled again at the start of the second half, missing their first four shots from the field, plus a pair of free throws and turning the ball over twice in the first two minutes, they eventually got into a groove, going on a 20-5 run to take control of the contest.
The hosts were able to outscore them 14-12 in the final eight minutes, but the damage was already done.
"The last two weeks have been a lot of fun to see," declared Coach Lyness. "We're playing well at the right time, but like we did last week against East Hamilton, we ran out of gas.
"I loved our energy and fight. Even when we got down by like 10, we didn't feel like we were out of it."
Lee University softball signee Laney Harris paced the hosts with a game-high 22 points, including a trio of "triples."
Sophomore Cayci Davis drilled a pair of long-range shots on her way to a dozen for the home team, plus she cleared four caroms and dished a couple of assists.
Senior Tasia Roberts cleaned the glass for 11 ricochets, plus netted eight markers in the contest.
Junior Kara Williams led the way for the victors with 15 points, draining a couple from "distance."
Senior Mariyah Person posted 10 points and a half dozen boards, while Paige Moody came off the bench to sizzle the strings for a pair of 3s on her way to eight points.
Milah Williams garnered seven points and a trio of caroms, while senior Megan Rouse snatched down five rebounds.
Friday, Feb. 14
at "The Stable"
Cleveland11142012 — 59
Walker Valley1215 714 — 48
LADY RAIDERS (59) — Kara Williams 15, Mariyah Person 10, Paige Moody 8, Milah Williams 7, Baily Anderson 5, Moore 4, Hurst 3, Rouse 2, Jackson 2, Chestnutt 2, Johnson 1, Alvarado, Tanner.
LADY MUSTANGS (48) — Laney Harris 22, Cayci Davis 12, Tasia Roberts 8, Caldwell 4, Benson 2, Jaynes, S. Roberts, B. Lonas, B. Harris, Patel.
3-point goals: CHS 6 (K. Williams 2, Moody 2, M. Williams, Person); WV 6 (Harris 3, Davis 2, Caldwell).
Free throws: CHS 7-of-16; WV 12-of-20.
Records: Cleveland 19-10, 9-3 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 9-18, 4-8 District 5-AAA.
Cleveland13271711 — 68
Walker Valley13161321 — 63
RUNNIN' RAIDERS (68) — JaCobi Wood 17, Barkley McGowan 15, Michael Dale 14, Morrell Schramm 12, Grant Hurst 10, Whaley, Hall.
MUSTANGS (63) — Blake Campbell 21, Shimier Davis 18, Noah Duprey 8, Sam Belau 6, Seth Sausville 6, B. Davis 2, Smith 2, Tyson, Moore.
3-point goals: CHS 6 (Wood 3, McGowan 2, Schramm); WV 10 (Campbell 5, Belau 2, Sausville 2, Duprey).
Free throws: CHS 14-of-21; WV 12-of-16.
Records: Cleveland 28-0, 12-0 District 5-AAA; Walker Valley 17-10, 6-6 District 5-AAA.