The Raiders suffered through a dismal night from the floor, a bizarre incident at the free-throw line and were even aided by the Eagles with a basket through the Cleveland hoop. In the end, however, Cleveland proved to be its own worst enemy and took its second District 5-3A loss, a 59-56 defeat by Rhea County.
The Lady Raiders overcame poor shooting on their own in the first half, incorporated a little-used defense in the second half and took advantage of top-notch efforts by Sydnie Anderson and Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad to walk away with a 48-37 win over the Lady Eagles.
The Blue Raiders’ Jeykyl-and-Hyde personality materialized in the first half when Dr. Jekyl held the Eagles to 10 first quarter points. Mr. Hyde revealed himself in the second quarter when Rhea County’s blitzkrieg bombed the Raiders’ defense for 22 points and took a 34-24 lead into the halftime break.
Cleveland (11-6, 6-2) scraped together only six points in the second period, missing time after time in the paint while Rhea County (11-7, 4-2) took advantage of the gifts to build the eight-point lead. The Raiders ended the night with 20 misses in the lane.
“I just can’t believe how bad we shot the ball and how well they shot the basketball. We had 23 more shot attempts — and lost. That has never happened in my opinion,” said an unbelieving Cleveland coach Jason McCowan. “If you shoot 15 to 20 times more than the other team, you should win easily. To have that many more shot attempts and still lose is mind boggling to come up on the short end of the stick.”
“With this team our effort is based on whether or not the ball goes in. We definitely have to learn how to get out of that because the ball was not going in and we went through lapses where we didn’t play hard. The effort was real sporadic. The first quarter we gave up 10 points, then we gave up 22 in the second quarter.”
The Blue Raiders’ shooting effort got better in the second half but ran into another Mr. Hyde, of sorts, late in the third quarter in what can only be decribed as a bizarre decision by the officials.
Trailing 40-33 with 2:16 left in the period D.J. Bowles stepped to the line to try and add one more point after being fouled while scoring on a driving layup. The shot caromed off the iron and an alert Jarod Rhodes raced around the standing Ealges for a put back and what should have been two points for Cleveland that would have cut it to a five-point Rhea lead. But, the goal was ruled no good by the official who had called for a two-shot foul on the “And One” play. The referees subsequently awarded Rhea County the ball.
But wait. There’s more.
A minute later after a 3-point basket by Cleveland’s Kendrick Thompson, Golden Eagle Josh Coleman executed a monster slam on the inbounds play that had brought the crowd to its feet — except for the ones who realized the dunk was through the Cleveland basket. The resulting confusion was enough to allow the Blue Raiders to briefly tie the game at 40-40 at the buzzer.
“We got an ‘And One.’ We teach our players to play to the whistle. The whistle didn’t blow and we laid it up and in. It should have been a 4-point play and they (Rhea) ended up getting the ball out of it. That was an odd turn of events. But,” McCowan added with a chuckle, “It kind of worked itself out when they shot one in the wrong goal.”
The Raiders took the lead one final time with just under five minutes left in the game before Rhea County regained control and forged back into the lead. The Eagles led by as many as six while Cleveland continued to struggle from the floor. Jarod Rhodes cut the margin to two points with 1:32 left, but the Raiders could get no closer and were forced to watch as two Rhea County free throws locked up the win.
“You hate to lose, but you only hope you learn from it and realize how hard you have to play. We don’t know how hard to play yet. Tonight proved it. The ball was not going in the hole and we kind of felt sorry for ourselves,” said McCowan.
“There was a lot of quirky stuff. It was a great atmosphere. You like to play in those because it makes you battle tough. But, we’ve got a lot of guys on this team that need to figure out how hard they need to play.”
Bowles led the Blue Raiders with 18 points. Rhodes added 14 and C.J. Bryant reached double figures with 11.
Lady Raiders 48,
Lady Eagles 37
In the night’s varsity opener, the Lady Raiders jumped headlong into an offensive battle with the Lady Eagles.
“It was a good win. I have said before, a win is a win. It wasn’t a pretty win, but we fought really, really hard. We had some stuff going on out of our control tonight and I thought our girls handled it outstanding,” Cleveland coach Mindy Kiser said of the loss of starter Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad who left with an injury in the third quarter. “I thought we showed a lot of maturity, a lot of growth tonight and I’m really proud of the girls.”
After falling behind 5-0, Cleveland (11-6, 6-2) fought back to tie the game at 5-5 midway through the first quarter using a brief zone defense to slow down the Lady Eagles (8-13, 2-5). Muhammad lifted in a 3 to give Cleveland a 12-6 lead with 1:33 left in the first. Rhea came back in the closing second to make it a 12-10 Lady Raiders’ lead headed into the second quarter.
A slower offensive production on both ends of the court allowed the Lady Raiders to stay out front with the Lady Eagles hot on their heels. A basket inside 20 seconds by Muhammad and another at the buzzer sent Cleveland into the locker room with a 20-15 lead.
“We started the game in a zone defense and used it sparingly in the first half. The second half we came out in another zone that we really haven’t worked on a whole lot,” said Kiser. “Our kids did a great job adjusting and playing spots they weren’t used to. Sometimes you have just got to do things to win a ball game. I am really proud of the girls because they did that. They adjusted and they took what was given them and played really well.”
The Lady Raiders played well enough to stay out front in the third quarter with Sydnie Anderson and Atarah Abdul-Muhammad combining to score nine. Hallea McLendon added two more for Cleveland to put the Lady Raiders on top 31-27 after three quarters.
The Cleveland defense took over in the final eight minutes holding the Lady Eagles to two 3s and two 2s. Offensively, the Lady Raiders tacked on 17 more to lock up the win.
Anderson’s 14 points topped the scoring column for Cleveland. Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad contributed 10 before being forced to call it a night.
“Sydnie Anderson played really, really well tonight. She has had two tough games. She was really good down the stretch tonight. She is another one of those players who showed a lot of maturity. I’m really proud of her. Atarah had an outstanding game getting to the rim and getting some rebounds as well,” Kiser said of the Lady Raiders.
LADY RAIDERS 48, LADY EAGLES 37
Cleveland 12 8 11 17 — 48
Rhea County 10 5 12 10 — 37
Cleveland (48) — Sydnie Anderson 14, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 10, Berry 8, A. Abdullah-Muhammad 8, Scoggins 4, McClendon 2, Perkins, Capron.
Rhea County (37) — Julie Brown 14, Alex Hughey 11, Thompson 7, Miles 2, Thompson 7, Levi 3, Ervin, Allen, Thurman.
3-point goals: Cleveland 3 (Berry 2, Anderson); Rhea County 5 (Hughey 3, Brown 2).
Records: Cleveland 11-6, 6-2 District 5-3A; Rhea County 8-13, 2-5.
EAGLES 59, BLUE RAIDERS 56
Cleveland 15 6 16 16 — 56
Rhea County 10 22 8 19 — 59
Cleveland (56) — D.J. Bowles 18, C.J. Bryant 11, Thompson 8, Jones 2, Robinson 3, Herink.
Rhea County (37) — Preston Opperman 17, Josh Coleman 13, Jalen Smith 13, Roddy 9, Clark 6, Eastman 1, J. Opperman.
3-point goals: Cleveland 5 (Bryant 2, Thompson 2, Bowles); Rhea County 2 (Smith, Coleman).
Records: Cleveland 11-6, 6-2 District 5-3A; Rhea County 11-7, 4-2.