Playing superb defense over the second half, and holding the highly regarded Owls to only seven points in the fourth quarter and 21 in the final two quarters, coach Jason McCowan’s Raiders scored an impressive 71-58 victory.
Despite Friday’s victory, the Raiders (or McMinn County) must score another hit on the Owls to deny Ooltewah the No. 1 seed in the upcoming district tournament. The Owls have lost two games in district play, while Cleveland, Bradley Central and McMinn County each have three losses.
Ooltewah has two district games remaining ... McMinn County Tuesday and a repeat performance with the Raiders in Cleveland’s Dome Thursday. The Raiders will finish their regular season on the road Friday at powerful Knoxville West ... a non-district game, but a good warmup for postseason tournament play.
It was a double celebration for Cleveland High Friday as coach Rachel Moore’s Lady Raiders scored a solid 55-31 win over Ooltewah’s Lady Owls. The big win keeps the Ooltewah girls winless in district play this season, improving Cleveland to 5-5 and in the middle of the 5-AAA standings.
The Cleveland girls stopped the Lady Owls with a stingy defense and displayed some shooting prowess from the outside. The Lady Raiders hit five 3-pointers in the first half, getting long-range shots from four different players.
n The Cleveland teams did not fare very well in junior varsity contests. The boys dropped a 63-46 decision and the girls were whipped 26-9.
Shun Qualls scored 15 and Kendrick Thompson 13 for the young Raiders, while Sandra Williams sparked the girls’ junior varsity.
Friday’s varsity games:
Raiders 71, Owls 58
Coach McCowan agreed Friday’s win may be his team’s best effort of the year, especially in the second half.
“We were really focused on each possession,” he said of the team’s overall performance.
“I was comfortable with our offense (going into the game), but I wasn’t sure our defense was ready,” McCowan said after the game.
It was the Raiders’ defense that turned the game in Cleveland’s favor. Ooltewah fell behind early, but caught up just before halftime and had a 37-36 lead at intermission.
The battle swayed back and forth through most of the third quarter. Cleveland scored the final four points of the quarter for a 55-51 lead going into the final eight minutes.
Ooltewah got within two, 55-53, but then the Raiders took control. Scoring six of the next eight points, the Raiders went in front by eight, 63-55, with 5:40 remaining in the game. This short spurt began with back-to-back 3-pointers by D.J. Bowles and B.J. Davis.
The Raiders then shut down the Ooltewah offense. The Owls failed to score over the next four minutes as Cleveland raced out to a 14-point lead at 69-55. Ooltewah was called for a technical foul late in this stretch, which provided the Raiders with two points and possession of the basketball.
The home team ended up with only seven points in the quarter as the Cleveland defense was dominating.
McCowan had words of praise for his entire lineup, especially for point guard D.J. Bowles. “D.J. is so comfortable at the point and gets us into our offense,” Cleveland’s coach said. “He’s just so calm in running our offense.”
Bowles was steady throughout Friday’s game, but he had plenty of help.
Cleveland had four players scoring in double figures, led by center Jarod Rhodes with 20 points. He banged the boards with authority against the taller Owls, using his athletic ability for rebounds and points.
Bowles added 15 points to Cleveland’s total, with two 3-pointers. Rondazz Mee worked hard in moving the basketball around, finishing the night with 12 points. B.J. Davis added 10 points with two additional 3-pointers.
Tevin Rutledge, Tra Upton, Caleb Hiddleson and Ronzell Robinson all contributed to the Cleveland victory.
Ooltewah had three players in double figures and a fourth with nine points. Andre Moton paced the home team with 16 points, but was closely followed by Jervon Johnson with 14 and Wesley Richey with 13. Ben Snider got nine.
It was a very competitive matchup most of the way, and a confidence-builder for the Raiders. “This is when you want to play well,” said McCowan in conclusion.
Lady Raiders 55, Lady Owls 31
Coach Moore was pleased with her team’s balance and effort, but still had a little to be critical of.
“The one thing I was most disappointed with was our effort on the defensive board in the first half,” she said after the game. “We did much better in the second half.”
Most of Moore’s critique of the Lady Raiders’ effort was very positive. “We shot it well and played really smart on the offense end,” she said. “Also, our defense has been pretty consistent the last few games.”
“Sydnie (Anderson) played really well tonight,” coach Moore said in praising the performances of her outside players. The Lady Raiders scored more points from the perimeter than usual, including the five 3-pointers in the first half from Anderson (2) and one each from Qetuwrah Abdullah-Mohammad, Jalesa Perkins and Noraziah Berry.
Anderson topped the Cleveland scoring attack with 12 points, while Berry added 11 and Jordan Caprone and Marissa Langford chipped in eight apiece.
The Ooltewah girls stayed with the Lady Raiders for only the first few minutes, with Cleveland doubling the score at the end of the opening quarter at 12-6. Both teams picked up the pace through the second quarter, with Cleveland on top by 10 at the half, 27-17.
The Lady Raiders opened up a 20-point lead at the end of the third quarter, 45-25, and doubled the score once again over the Lady Owls at 52-26, before coach Moore sent her reserves into the game.
It was a good, solid effort by the Lady Raiders ... and like the boys’ game ... a confidence-builder for postseason play.
Cleveland 12 15 18 10 — 55
Ooltewah 6 11 8 6 — 31
Lady Raiders (55) —A. Abdullah-Mohammad 2, Perkins 5, Q. Abdullah-Mohammad 6, Langford 8, Caprone 8, Noraziah Berry 11, Sydnie Anderson 12, Brown, Barber 1, Courtney 2.
Lady Owls (31) — Alvey 4, Bradley 2, O’Shea, Bowen, Kianna Delaney 12, Young, Lemon 6, Smith 3, Kennedy 2, Baird, Barrett 2, Mority.
3-pointers: Cleveland 5 (Perkins, Q. Abdullah-Mohammad, Berry, Anderson 2); Ooltewah 3 (Lemon 2, Smith).
Records: Cleveland 11-10 and 5-5 in Dist. 5-AAA; Ooltewah 6-15 and 0-10 in District 5-AAA.
Cleveland 22 14 19 16 — 71
Ooltewah 16 21 14 7 — 58
Raiders (71) — Rutledge 8, Upton, Rondazz Mee 12, D.J. Bowles 15, Jarod Rhodes 20, B.J. Davis 10, Hiddleson 6, Robinson.
Owls (58) — Jackson, Andra Moton 16, Arnold 2, Wesley Richey 13, Jervon Johnson 14, Wilson, Snider 9, Ware, Creech 4.
3-pointers: Cleveland 4 (Bowles 2, Davis 2); Ooltewah 5 (Richey 2, Johnson 2, Snider).
Records: Cleveland 16-6 and 8-3 in Dist. 5-AAA; Ooltewah 19-6 and 8-2 in Dist. 5-AAA.