The Lady Mustangs opened a three-game stretch of District 5-3A battles with a down-to-the-wire win over Ooltewah Friday night in “The Barn.”
Four key free throws with only seconds left on the clock gave Walker Valley the points it needed in a 44-42 thriller against the Lady Owls.
In the nightcap, the Mustangs played two and a half quarters of pretty darned good basketball against a pretty darned good team before the Owls run-and- gun style of basketball caught up to Walker Valley. A third quarter run by the Owls gave them the spark they needed to pull away and tag the Mustangs with a 90-62 loss.
“I’m just glad the ball fell our way. I’m just glad we won. We needed that playing Cleveland on Tuesday and going into February,” said an exhausted Lady Mustangs coach Jessica Stone. “I’m just really happy for them.”
The Lady Mustangs (7-14, 3-6 District 5-3A) led 14-11 after the first quarter, but fell behind 26-17 after a 7-0 run by the Lady Owls (11-8, 5-4) late in the half.
“They have been down a lot this season. As far as coming back from a deficit, they are getting better at doing that,” said Stone.
The Lady Mustangs did come back in the second half to pull within one at 27-26 with 2:45 left in the quarter, but another seven-point string gave Ooltewah a 34-26 advantage at the buzzer.
Walker Valley picked it up early in the fourth and closed the gap to one again with an eight-point outburst, highlighted by a Jessica Stepp 3-pointer from the left corner with just over five minutes left to play. The Lady Owls moved back out front by three, but back-to-back 3s by Wendi Watson and Jaclyn Griffith gave the Lady Mustangs back the lead with 2:19 left on the clock. A basket by Ooltewah made it 40-39.
Lindsey Macon came through in the clutch for the Lady Mustangs with 65 ticks to go with two free throws. Then, with 36 seconds left, two more clutch shots from the line by Griffith was enough to put the game just far enough out of reach after the Lady Owls scored three more before time ran out.
“We’ve been preaching to them all year long that basketball is a game of runs. They are going to go on runs and we are going to go on runs. They are so young they never understood what that fully meant, but they are understanding it now,” said Stone. “It is good and they are not getting down. It is hopefully coming together. Like I said, this is a big game for us going into the Cleveland game on Tuesday and then into February.”
OWLS 90, MUSTANGS 62
For a while, it looked as though the Walker Valley Mustangs were going to hang around long enough to pull off their biggest upset in some time against Ooltewah.
It was not to be.
The Owls (20-3, 7-2 District 5-3A) turned up the heat in the third quarter and ran away from the Mustangs (7-15, 0-9) the rest of the way to win going away.
“Their style of play, we played right into their hands as far as running up and down like that. We got tired,” said Mustangs coach Bob Williams who knew coming in holding the Ooltewah scoring machine in check would be a monumental job for the best of teams.
The Mustangs, however, kept themselves hot on the heels of the Owls in the first half. Led by the solid inside play of Jackson Brownfield and the spot on shooting of Jahmal Johnson, Walker Valley trailed by only eight, 28-20 after the first quarter.
Johnson finished the night with 20 points. Brownfield was right behind with 18.
Another good quarter of points scoring again helped the Mustangs keep the Owls in relative check. Walker Valley poured in 18 more in the second eight minutes and stayed close at 47-38 at the half.
Williams said later he was pleased with the play of Brownfield and Johnson, but defensively, the Mustangs needed to make the Owls work harder for their points.
“Jackson, I thought did a good job around the basket. Jahmal did a good job on the corners for us,” he said. “ But, our defense, my goodness. You have to pick your poison. You guard a man and he beats you off the dribble, you play zone and they find open people. The first time we played them, they weren’t hitting. They were hitting tonight on all cylinders.”
The third quarter, after a relatively slow start compared to the first two quarters, turned into what eventually proved to be the death knell for the Mustangs. Ooltewah broke loose for 19 points in the last five minutes of the quarter to essentially put the game away with a 69-48 lead.
Walker Valley picked it back up a bit offensively in the final eight minutes, but with the damage already done, the Mustangs could make no headway against the blistering offense of the Owls.
“We are not used to playing like that. We didn’t have good possessions. When we did have the ball we didn’t make them work on defense very much. We took to quick of shots. We’ve got to be a better disciplined team than that. Against a good team like Ooltewah, you’ve got to make them work a little bit of defense,” said the Walker Valley coach.
“We’ve got to come in Sunday and shoot, practice on Monday and play Cleveland on Tuesday. That’s another team similar to Ooltewah, They are very athletic and very talented. It will be a tough challenge.”
LADY MUSTANGS 44, LADY OWLS 42
Walker Valley 14 5 7 18 — 44
Ooltewah 11 15 8 8 — 42
Walker Valley (44) — Jessica Stepp 11, Jaclyn Griffith 10, Watson 8, Sotuyo 6, Lawhorn 4, Macon 5, Davis, Wilson.
Ooltewah (42) — Delaney 14, Bradley 11,Barrett 10, Bowen 3, Kennedy 2, Cross 2, O’Shea, Dudas.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 5 (Stepp 3, Griffith 2, Watson 2); Ooltewah 3 (Delaney 2, Bowen).
Records: Walker Valley 7-14, 3-6 District 5-3A; Ooltewah 11-8, 5-4.
OWLS 90, MUSTANGS 62
Walker Valley 20 18 10 14 — 62
Ooltewah 28 19 22 21 — 90
Walker Valley (62) — Jahmal Johnson 20, Jackson Brownfield 18, Hysinger 8, Melton 4, Korn 4, Harwood 2, Cartwright 2, Morrow 2, Hunt 2, Russell, Swafford, Franklin.
Ooltewah (90) — Jevon Johnson 36, Ben Snider 14, A. Johnson 9, Creech 9, Moton 5, Arnold 8, Ware 2, Stone, Bass, Pressley, Warren.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 1 (Johnson); Ooltewah 11 (Johnson 7, Snider 3, A. Johnson 1).
Records: Walker Valley 7-15, 0-9 District 5-3A; Ooltewah 20-3, 7-2.