Revenge, rivalry and sole possession of first place in the conference standings were at stake as the 24th-ranked Chattanooga State Lady Tigers invaded Cleveland State for the much anticipated Region VII showdown with the 20th-ranked Lady Cougars.
Forty minutes were not nearly enough to settle the score in the women’s contest as the Lady Cougars finally prevailed in overtime by a final score of 69-65.
In the men’s game, the Cougars dropped a high-scoring heartbreaker in the final seconds to the Tigers, 102-101.
Lady Cougars 69, Lady Tigers 65
The ladies contest lived up to the super-hype and then some as the Lady Cougars and Lady Tigers fought tooth and claw the entire afternoon. A 14-4 run midway through the first half by the Lady Tigers gave them an early 19-9 lead as Cleveland State opened the game slowly.
A layup from Mariah Lawrence tied the game at 27-all for Cleveland State but the Lady Tigers responded with five straight points from April Woodard including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the visitors a 32-27 halftime advantage.
The Lady Cougars stayed right on the heels of their guests and finally took their first lead of the game with just over 10 minutes to play on a 3-point play by Lawrence, 39-38. The game seesawed back and forth from there.
A huge trey from TaQuasha O’Neal put the Lady Tigers on top, 55-53 with just under two minutes to go, but a steal and layup from Takeya Day tied the game and then a driving layup from Kierra Johnson put the home team on top 57-55 with 13 seconds to play. Chasity Welch picked out a perfect time to score her first points of the game for the Lady Tigers as she drove the lane and hit a scooping layup at the buzzer to force the extra period of play.
Johnson took over from there for Cleveland State as she put her team on top with a layup to start the extra stanza and then nailed a 3-pointer to give them a four-point lead. An offensive rebound and putback from Andraya Tears helped put the finishing touches on an incredible game as the Lady Cougars took sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
“It was an amazing game and a huge win for our girls,” stated an exhausted Lady Cougar coach Dan Lumpkin. “It was a mirror image of the first game with them in Chattanooga, only this time we came out on top in overtime. Kierra carried us for a time especially in overtime, but it was a total team effort today. Andraya Tears played well on defense, taking at least three charges. We started slow, but the effort was there and somehow we found a way to get it done.”
Johnson led the Lady Cougars (19-1, 12-1) with 26 points and 12 boards, Day finished with nine points while Lawrence and Cash Champion added seven each. Woodard paced the Lady Tigers (15-5, 11-2) with 23 points while Kim Manning added 12.
Tigers 102, Cougars 101
To say that the Cougars started the game with the hot hand would be a huge understatement. They seemingly could not miss in the first half as they hit the heavily favored Tigers early and often and basically outhustled their guests for the first 20 minutes.
Keith Johnson and Terrell Parks nailed a 3-pointer each as the Cougars took a 16-5 lead to open the game. The lead grew steadily as the Cougars continued to rain jumpers down on the Tigers. Velonte Bell converted an old-fashioned 3-point play with just under 10 minutes to play in the half for a 41-20 lead. The Tigers warmed slightly as they then cut the lead to only eight points, 56-48 by halftime.
The Cougars went right back out to a 15-point lead early in the second half as Phillip Jenkins and Keith Johnson took turns knocking down threes. Johnson hit three in the first half and four in the second half while Jenkins added five long range bombs of his own. Slowly but surely the Tigers sliced into the lead as Michael Robertson took control of the paint with 10 straight points, cutting it to 10 points, 90-80, at the eight-minute mark and to only one point with three minutes left.
A 3-pointer from Telvin James gave the Tigers their first lead at 94-92. The lead changed hands four times over the next four trips down the floor as two free tosses from Billy Thompson put the Cougars on top, 101-100 with 23 ticks left on the clock. With six seconds left, LaTraius Mosley drove the lane and hit an off-balance jumper to put the Tigers on top for good. A desperation shot fell just short as the Tigers completed the comeback for the win.
Johnson had a monster night to lead the Cougars (10-11, 3-10) with 35 points, Jenkins was right behind with 28 points and Gerard Gore added 10. Michael Robertson paced the Tigers (17-4, 9-4) with 27 points, Abdur-Rahim Cooper added 22 points, Joshua Lee had 13 and Alex Dean finished with 11.
Cleveland State will host Walters State on Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. The games will also be webcast live over the Cougars Sports Network.