Coach Tim McPhail’s Lady Cherokees made a big play late and held on for a 58-56 win over the Lady Raiders in a game that featured a parade to the free-throw line by both teams.
Coach Keith Elliott’s Cherokees matched Cleveland’s aggressiveness on the boards and came away with an exciting, 63-60, triumph in the nightcap.
The losses were the first of the season for the Cleveland teams, and coaches Rachel Moore and Jason McCowan said the disappointments are a learning experience.
This disappointment could only linger for a short while, since the Cleveland teams were to return to action Saturday night against visiting Knoxville West. Coverage of Saturday’s games will be included in Monday’s Banner Sports Section.
Cleveland’s coach Moore congratulated the McMinn County girls on their hard-fought win.
“It came down to them making a play to win the game,” she said.
McCowan said his Raiders “didn’t deserve to win” with their performance on Friday.
“McMinn County took advantage of their play off the boards,” he said in paying tribute to the Cherokees’ game plan.
McCowan attributed the team’s first loss of the year to a lack of consistency.
“We were not consistent at all on defense,” he said.
Cherokees 63, Raiders 60
Coach Elliott felt the difference in the game was his team’s success early against Cleveland’s press defense.
“We were able to do some things and make some things happen,” he said.
“It was a big (district) win for us,” the Cherokees’ coach added. “If we can win on the road and take care of things at home, it’ll be a good year for us.”
McCowan said it was not a good game for his Raiders.
“B.J. (Davis) didn’t shoot well, which hurt us,” the Cleveland coach said after the game. “I knew we would reach a point where this would happen,” he said of the performance of his shooting guard and the need for other players to step up.
McCowan acknowledged that guard D.J. Bowles did step up to take some of the slack with a game-high of 26 points, and Jarod Rhodes played well inside for the Raiders (adding 15 points). But, it was not enough to offset McMinn’s free throw opportunities in the final 48 seconds of the game.
Rhodes tied the score at 60-60 with 48 seconds left, but the Cherokees cashed in with two free throws from Brian Sherrill and another from Dante Arnwine to take the victory.
Cleveland had two 3-point opportunities by Bowles and Davis in the final seconds, but neither found the net.
McMinn County’s scoring was balanced throughout the lineup. Inside performers James Lowery and Eric Wilcox led the way with 13 and 12 points respectively, while Desmond McBee got nine, Cedric Nevins eight and Sherill seven.
Bowles had four 3-pointers in his 26 points, while most of Rhodes’ 15 points came off rebounds. Davis finished under his season average with eight points and two 3-point connections.
McMinn County kept the host Raiders in check through the first quarter for a 14-11 lead in a low-scoring eight minutes.
The pace picked up in the second quarter, the Cherokees scoring 19 and Cleveland 18 — leaving the visitors in front by four, 33-29.
Cleveland cut the gap to a single point at the end of three quarters, 47-46. The Raiders then took the lead at 49-48 on a 3-point goal by Davis, and were in front by three points at 58-55 with less than three minutes remaining.
The Cherokee regained the lead at 59-58 on a jumper by Wilcox and two free throws by Lowery, then clinched the victory with a trio of late free throws.
Friday’s win improves McMinn County’s record to 5-3 and 1-0 in the district. Cleveland dropped to 2-1 and 0-1 with the loss
Lady Cherokees 58
Lady Raiders 56
McMinn County’s game plan was to put pressure on the Lady Raiders. It worked early, but proved to be a detriment in the second half.
“We had to back off because we had so many in fouls,” said coach MacPhail.
The Cleveland girls made 15 of 23 free throws in the first half, and 21 of 31 for the game.
“If we had shot our free throws better we would have won the game,” said coach Moore.
Moore did not feel youth and a lack of experience was a key factor in the game, although she does not have a senior and only two juniors on her roster.
“We just made too many mistakes and missed two many layups,” she said of the loss. “We just didn’t seprate the chaos of our defense from our offense.”
“We have high expectations (this season), regardless of our age,” she said of this year’s Lady Raiders. “What I love about this group is they expect more of themselves. We’ve just got to learn from this loss.”
A deciding factor in the final score, and Cleveland’s disappointment, was a pair of 3-point shots in the final three minutes. Haley Ward hit one at the three-minute mark, and Haylee Morrow followed with another at 2:15 to give the Lady Cherokees a 55-50 lead.
Cleveland refused to call it quits. Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammed put a rebound back in for two points, and her sister Atarah followed with back-to-back field goals as the Lady Raiders charged back on top at 56-55.
McMinn’s Hannah Brown scored off a break with 12 seconds left for the big play of the game. The Lady Cherokees got the ball right back and Brown hit a free throw for a 58-56 lead with 10 second on the clock.
Cleveland got the basketball to the basket in the final seconds and had an opportunity to tie. Atarah Muhammed put the ball in the net on the third try, but the officials ruled it came after the buzzer.
McMinn had four players in double figures. Morrow led the way with 14, English Derrick got 13, Brown 12 and Ward 10. Cara Smith and Morrow had two 3-point goals apiece, while Brown and Ward added one reach. Cleveland did not hit from long range.
Qetuwrah Muhammed topped the Lady Raiders in the scorebook with 16. Noraziah Berry added 10 and Atarah Muhammed got nine.
n Cleveland did get a victory in the boys’ junior varsity game, beating the young Cherokees, 73-61. Shawn Qualls and David Morgan shared scoring honors for the Raiders with 16 apiece.
Taylor Rhodes scored nine and Dustin Little, Austin Herink and Brian Armstrong all got eight.
Queston Simpson scored 25 for McMinn County, while Ty Jones added 12 and Bo Marshall 11.
McMinn County 8 23 8 19 — 58
Cleveland 10 22 11 13 — 56
Lady Cherokees (58) — C. Smith 6, Maylee Morrow 14, Hannah Brown 12, Murillo, Haley Ward 10, English Derrick 13, Van Wagner, Brewster, Shirk 1, K. Smith, Hennessee 2, Burke.
Lady Raiders (56) — A. Muhammed 9, Perkins 2, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammed 16, Langford 6, Carpon 4, Noraziah Berry 10, Anderson 4, Hooks 5.
3-pointers: McMinn County 6 (C. Smith 2, Morrow 2, Brown, Ward); Cleveland - none.
Records: McMinn County 3-5, 1-0 in 5-AAA; Cleveland 2-1, 0-1 in 5-AAA.
McMinn County 14 19 14 16 — 63
Cleveland 11 18 17 14 — 60
Cherokees (63) — Arnwine 5, Davis 4, Looney 2, McBee 9, Eric Wilcox 12, Nevins 8, Simbeck 3, Taylor, Sherrill 7, James Lowery 13.
Raiders (60) — Qualls, Rutledge 5, Upton 2, Sadler, D.J. Bowles 26, Morgan, Jarod Rhodes 15, Davis 8, Hiddleson 4.
3-pointers: McMinn County - none; Cleveland 6 (Bowles 4, Davis 2)
Records: McMinn County 5-3, 1-0 in 5-AAA; Cleveland 3-1, 0-1 in 5-AAA.