The Blue Raiders simply could not overcome the Owls’ Jervon Johnson. Ooltewah’s not so secret weapon blistered Cleveland for 37 points and the Owls handed the Raiders their first district 5-3A loss and their first double-digit loss in three years, 74-53.
“Free-throw shooting. We’ve talked about it several times. It is an issue for us right now,” Said Lady Raiders’ coach Mindy Kiser. “We did hit our free throws in the first half. The second half we were a little suspect from the line.”
The Lady Raiders (9-6, 3-2) dropped in 13-of-19 free throws in the first half, 6-of-7 in the final 1:22 to lead 27-23 at halftime after coming back from being down 23-17 with just over three minutes left in the half.
“I thought our shot selection wasn’t the best. I thought we forced a lot of shots in the first half and the second half. Once again, Nora (Berry) got into foul trouble and that changes our rotation and puts in a difficult, tight spot at times,” said Kiser.
“When you get a steal, you have to grab it with two hands. A lot of times we are taking turnovers and turning them over ourselves. That gets us in tough situations.”
Cleveland’s free-throw woes surfaced quickly in the third quarter. Bre Ware scored from the line with 6:16 left in the period and the sister duo of Qetuwrah and Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad tossed in two points apiece to keep Cleveland out front 32-26. From there, the Lady Raiders agonized from the line missing 12-of-16 tries from the line including a streak of six in a row that missed the mark. The streak allowed Ooltewah to catch up and take the lead with 3:31 left in the game.
The sisters led the Lady Raiders in scoring with 15 points apiece.
A big 3-pointer by Sydnie Anderson from the right wing gave the Lady Raiders the lift they were looking for and a 45-44 lead with 28 seconds to go.
“We talked about halftime about why we have to dig a hole to have to fight out of and play as a unit. It is just one of those things we will continue to work on. We don’t have a game on Friday so we will have an opportunity to have three good practices in a row and really work on some things. We will keep working until we get the product we want,” Miser said.
Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad tossed in a final free throw with 3.7 seconds showing on the clock to make it a 46-44 game. The Lady Owls had one final shot at a win or tie on an inbounds play but the shot rattled off the iron and the Lady Raiders escaped with the win.
“I didn’t agree with a lot of stuff going on. But, we are on the road and when you go on the road you have to be prepared to fight, scratch and claw for everything. And our kids did do that,” said Kiser. “We are not perfect, we make mistakes. Hopefully, we are going to learn, do that and move on.”
OWLS 74, RAIDERS 53
What started out as a toe-to-toe battle between the Blue Raiders and Owls turned into an Ooltewah blowout in the second half.
Jarod Rhodes and D.J. Bowles both had pretty good nights offensively for Cleveland. The pair booked 18 and 17 points respectively. But the story of the game came from the opposing bench. Ooltewah’s Johnson turned up the gas on an already hot night and blew the roof off “The Barn” with 24 second-half half points to finish with 37, including eight 3s.
“It’s a lack of maturity on our part. He has been playing basketball for them for three years. He is not a secret. He is not a secret to anybody in our district. We’ve scouted, we’ve watched them play and we’ve played against them,” Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said of the Blue Raiders’ familiar foe. “When you just let him flow and let him stay around the line — he doesn’t go anywhere inside the 3-point line — when you continue to continue to let him shoot it and have shot after shot after shot, they are going to beat you that bad, no question. That is first and foremost what you take away from them defensively. We just weren’t tough enough to take that away.”
After leading 18-16 after the first quarter, Cleveland (10-5, 5-1) headed toward the halftime locker room with a 31-31 tie.
Ooltewah (15-2, 3-1) quickly took a 43-33 led in the third and never looked back while building up even more steam and finishing the third with a 52-47 advantage.
The Blue Raiders went ice cold in the final eight minutes, scoring only two points in the first five minutes of the period while Johnson and the Owls cooked the nylons for 15. Cleveland managed only two points the rest of the way falling by 19 to the Owls.
“We started dominating the ball to where we were selfish with it and instead of finding somebody open, we were driving and trying to force. We just got completely out of sync. I’m not making any excuses at all, but it showed our maturity. When we have played well I thought our kids have played a little bit above our heads. I felt like in this game when we got down we tried to do things we couldn’t do and it showed,” McCowan lamented.
“Ooltewah is a very talented basketball team. They weren’t picked to win this district for nothing. They were picked because they are talented and are a good group. When you let them play and let them have easy shots it is going to be a long night for you — and it was for us. Giving up 74 points on any given night is just not acceptable. You are not going to win games like that. That is the first time in three years somebody has beat us by double digits. There is a reason for that and it’s just not focusing on the defensive end.”
LADY RAIDERS 46, LADY OWLS 44
Cleveland 8 19 11 8 — 46
Ooltewah 15 8 12 9 — 44
Cleveland (46) — Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 15, Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad, 15, Anderson 6, Ware 3, Capron 3, Perkins 2, McClendon 2, Scoggins.
Ooltewah (44) — Kiana Delaney 21, Leondra Barnett 11, Bradley 5, Bowden 4, Cross 3, O’Shea, Kennedy, Lemon.
3-point goals: Cleveland 1 (Anderson); Ooltewah 4 (Delaney 3, Cross).
Records: Cleveland (9-6, 3-2 District 5 3-A); (Ooltewah 9-6, 2-1).
OWLS 74, BLUE RAIDERS 53
Cleveland 18 13 16 6 — 53
Ooltewah 16 15 21 22 — 74
Cleveland (53) — Jarod Rhodes 18, D.J. Bowles 17, Bryant 7, Jones 4, Morgan 3, Bunion, Thompson, T. Rhodes..
Ooltewah (74) — Jervon Johnson 37, Jaqueeze Robinson 12, Jackson 5, Creech 7, Moton 8, Snider 2, Ware 2, Arnold.
3-point goals: Cleveland 3 (Bowles 2, Morgan); Ooltewah 9 (Johnson 8, Robinson).
Records: Cleveland (10-5, 5-1 District 5-3A); Ooltewah (15-2, 3-1).