The Bradley Central victory adds one more log to the crowd looking for a host spot in the closing weeks of the regular season as tournament time approaches.
“You kind of have four teams battling for those four spots. The two, three and four teams host the first round of the district tournament,” said Cleveland coach Jason McCowan, who’s Blue Raiders were on the losing end of Friday night’s battle. “The main thing you want to do is stay in one of the spots so you can host the first round of the tournament.”
Bradley’s Bearettes found themselves pushed hard for more than three quarters in the girls' game but used a strong fourth to earn a solid 57-44 win over the Lady Raiders.
In a battle to the final buzzer, the Bears (14-6, 5-3 District 5-AAA) and Blue Raiders (13-6, 6-3) wound up in a near deadlock for the third spot in the District 5 race as the regular season winds down.
“This was a game where fortunately we came out on top in the end. It's sweet to win over Cleveland anytime. I'm proud of our guys. I just wish we had done a better job at the free-throw line,” said a tired Bradley coach Kent Smith. “We should have finished this thing in regulation.”
Free throws down the stretch proved to be the difference in the final score. The Bears' Bryce Copeland hit 6 of 8 to close the fourth quarter putting Bradley Central up by two before Cleveland's Rondazz Mee sent the game into OT. The Bradley Central junior struggled a bit in overtime missing on 3 of 4 tries but hit the most important one — the last one — to give the Bears the victory.
“I tried to stay calm, cool and collected," said a smiling Copeland of his four late attempts. “They all felt good, they just didn't go in. It hapens sometimes. I've just got to get in the gym. It's repetition. You do the same thing over and over again. You try to block everything out.”
Copeland scored 18 points, none bigger than his final free throw, to lead the Bears in scoring. James Stovall hit double figures with 12.
“I'm proud of our guys. I think they understand the importance of me putting them at the free-throw line in different situations,” said Smith. “Tonight we could have closed the book on this game in regulation if we had just knocked down our free throws.”
Smith's Bears hit on 19 of 35 tries from the line. The Raiders were good in 9 of 16.
Cleveland's Jarod Rhodes led all scoring with 23 points. He was followed in double figures by Mee with 17.
We felt like getting the ball to Jarod was something we could exploit,” McCowan said. “It was a overtime game and was exciting. I just hate to be on the short end of the stick. But we didn't make plays down the stretch. I don't think we executed very well. It was just in spurts that we executed.”
Bradley Central had a good night inside the 3-point arc hitting 40 percent from the floor. Outside the line, the Bears were only 3 of 13. The treys, however, came at crucial moments. A Miles Christian 3 midway through the third quarter closed a Cleveland lead to two points. Copeland put the Bears up 33-31 with a long-distance effort two minutes later. The final Bears 3-pointer came once again from Copeland and cut a four point Blue Raiders lead to a single digit.
The Raiders bested the Bears from outside and inside the 3-point mark hitting 14 of 19 from 2-point territory and 6 of 17 from outside the arc. They also bested Bradley in a dubious category — turnovers. Cleveland turned the ball over 18 times to the Bears' 18.
Cleveland led 47-46 with 2:36 left in regulation but gave the Bears a big opportunity from the free-throw line after a turnover. Mee's off-balance 3 and a layup sent the game into overtime.”
“We had too many unforced mistakes," McCowan lamented. “We had 11 turnovers at halftime and we continued to run people over. We tell our guys, especially on the road, you see how it's being called and you adjust. I felt like we never adjusted.”
The Bears and Raiders scored only four points from the floor in OT, two by Bradley's Miles Morgan and two by Cleveland's Caleb Hiddleson as time ran out.
That was a big win for us in the district. We got a win over Ooltewah and we split with Cleveland,” said Smith. “There is still a lot of basketball to play the next couple of weeks. We've got to get a couple of players healthy but it was a good win and we are going to take it.”
Lady Raiders 44
The Bearettes and Lady Raiders didn't worry about overtime, but for more than three quarters the outcome was still up in the air before the Bearettes took over in the fourth quarter to secure the 57-44 win.
“I don't know how many Bradley-Cleveland games I've been involved in, probably close to 40, but a lot of times you can throw the records out. It comes down to a pride factor. It's an emotional game. Kids will dive a little harder, jump a little higher and do a lot of things. That should be equal on both sides,” said Bearettes' coach Jason Reuter.
“I think Cleveland for a while maybe out hustled us,” Reuter contiued. “I'm going to stand up for my team and say the fourth quarter, they played pretty darn good. Until that point I thought we were a little tentative and maybe a little unsure of our decision making. Some of our decisions were not sharp. I think they showed everybody what they are capable of in the fourth quarter.”
The Lady Raiders (16-5, 6-2 District 5-AAA) were forced to come from behind after the Bearettes (10-9, 4-5) broke a 9-9 tie in the first quarter and went on an 11-1 run to take a 21-10 lead.
Kayla Beavers led all scoring with 18 points including three 3s. Caroline Smith added 16 and Brooke Copeland battled through a lingering ankle injury to score 12 for Bradley Central.
The Bearettes blistered the nets, hitting 47 percent from 2-point range and making good on 14 of 33 attempts. From outside the line Bradley was 6 of 15.
Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad led the Lady Raiders with 16 points. Noraziah Berry pumped in 13.
From the floor, Cleveland was 11 of 34 and hit on 4 of 18 shots outside the line. The Bearettes dominated the boards with 3 rebounds to Cleveland's 19. Turnover were nearly even with the Lady Raiders making 22 errors to Bradley Central's 18.
“They (Bradley) made some huge shots. You have to give credit, they are a good basketball team,” said Lady Raiders' coach Rachel Moore. “I thought for three and a half quarters we played really well, really hard. Coming into this environment is a tough situation. I thought in a lot of ways this group rose to the occasion.”
Scoring slowed down for both teams in the second quarter with the Lady Raiders putting in 14 points to the Bearettes' 9. Bradley Central still led at halftime 30-24.
“I think we are much better defensively. Overall offensively, we made better decisions and did a great job of attacking the basket,”said Moore.”"I'm extremely proud of every one of them for coming into this type setting and playing as well as they did. This is one of the few times this group has been in an atmosphere like this with this much pressure on them. I thought the did exceptionally well.”
The Lady Raiders used their speed and quickness to change the momentum in the third quarter and push the Bearettes against the wall. The Cleveland defense held Bradley to only three points until less than a minute to go in the period and cut the Bearettes lead to 33-32. Beaver's 3 with 46 seconds left swung the momentum back to the Bearettes.
“Their quickness kind of negated some things we were trying to do. We kind of canceled each other out, their quickness and our size,” Reuter rationalized. “This kind of game will probably come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. We showed a little maturity in the fourth quarter.”
Jalesa Perkins closed out the third for Cleveland with a basket but the Bearettes opened the fourth with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to open an 11 point lead. The 3s by Beavers and Smith closed out a series of five consecutive 3s for Bradley Central.
“We don't shoot a tremendous amount of 3s. But we do shoot a pretty good percentage. I think once we get wide open looks, Kayla Beavers is the best 3-point shooter we have and our team did what they had to do to get her open. That's a sign of a team maturing a little bit. When they made that run in the third quarter we were standing a little bit and they were running by,” said Reuter.
“You can't take time off. You have to play every play like it is the last one. The third quarter we didn't. But in the fourth quarter we put it together. When they made their run they really didn't do that much offensively but it was our lack of offensive execution and Cleveland had something to do with it. They've got a good defensive team.”
The Bradley 3s opened the door to another 11-point outburst for the Bearettes who held the Lady Raiders to 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Cleveland. They came in with a good game plan,” continued Reuter. “They played hard. But I'm proud of my girls. We got a notch in the win column in the district and it puts up in a pretty solid spot in second place,” Rueter said. “But we have to take care of business. There are going to be other games like this.”
Cleveland 10 14 10 10 — 44
Bradley Central 21 9 9 21 — 57
Cleveland (44) — Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 16, Noraziah Berry 13, Perkins 4, Caprone 4, Anderson 4, A. Abdullah-Muhammad 2, Langford 1.
Bradley Central (57) — Kayla Beavers 18, Caroline Smith 16, Brooke Copeland 12, Reuter 7, Formont 3, Hammond 1, Withrow, Carroll.
3-point goals: Cleveland (4) Berry 3, Anderson; Bradley Central (5) Beavers 3, Smith 2.
Records: Cleveland 10-9, 4-5 5-AAA; Bradley Central 16-5, 6-2.
Cleveland 11 11 17 13 5 — 57
Bradley Central 13 11 13 15 6 — 58
Cleveland (57) — Jarod Rhodes 23, Rondazz Mee 17, Davis 6, Hiddleson 4, Bowles 2, Robinson.
Bradley Central (58) — Bryce Copeland 18, James Stovall 12, Rutledge 5, Chastain 6, Christain 5, Morgan 5, Houston 4, Johnson, Contreras 4, Whitmire.
3-point goals: Cleveland (5) Mee 3, Davis 2; Bradley Central (3) Copeland 2, Christian.
Records: Cleveland 14-6, 5-5 5-AAA; Bradley Central 13-6, 6-3.