The end of the season came quickly to the second-seeded Cleveland Lady Raiders Friday night as they were bounced from the Region 3-AAA tournament by No. 3 Cumberland County.
Despite holding an 11-point lead at the half the Lady Raiders found themselves behind the gun as the game came to a close, and unable to overtake a surging Lady Jets squad who nabbed a 57-51 come-from-behind upset victory.
“It was a tale of two halves last night. We came out really aggressive. Our first half was some of the best basketball I have seen us play this season, but I told them Cumberland would go on a run in the second half. All those things I had spent the last couple days warning them about came to fruition,” stated Lady Raider head coach Mindy Kiser.
Everything started smoothly for Cleveland’s girls as several offensive pieces fell into place early, finding success from the paint and the perimeter.
If the Lady Raiders showed any first half weakness it was with corralling loose rebounds and collecting too many fouls, a prelude of things to come.
Those items withstanding, Cleveland was able to keep their offensive pressure up and Cumberland seemed pressed for any kind of defensive answer.
When the teams broke for halftime, the Lady Raiders held a 30-19 lead and appeared on their way to the second round of the regional tournament.
But, athletic skill and natural talent can only account for so much on the court, and when the teams retook the floor to start the second half the Lady Jets put to test Cleveland’s Achilles heel — experience.
Despite a strong season and a number of talented players the Lady Raiders remain a young team, and it showed going down the stretch in Friday night’s game.
According to Kiser the Lady Jets featured three seniors, one of which is a potential DI-level point guard and another is the District 6-AAA MVP post player.
Cumberland came to play in the second half, scoring more points in the third quarter (21) than they had the entire first half (19).
A stout pick-and-roll offense combined with numerous second chance looks and frequent fouls helped the Lady Jets mount a surging comeback.
Having had control for the entire game Cleveland quickly found themselves on their heels and looked pressed in the situation they now found themselves.
As third quarter play quickly wound down the Lady Jets launched into a 10-3 run that gave them the lead and brought the well-traveled Cumberland fans to their feet.
On the other hand, Cleveland’s offense faltered and the defensive side of the ball started putting Cumberland shooters on the free-throw line with increased frequency.
“We knew we needed to keep them off the foul line. I think we got a little tired. We have been busy for the last three weeks, but it shouldn’t matter in the post-season. If you don’t give it everything you are going to get to rest for a very long time,” stated Kiser.
Coming down the stretch the Lady Jets went 13-for-16 from the line (19-of-23 overall) while the Lady Raiders were only able to convert four of their 10 second-half free throws attempts.
While Cleveland’s offense did manage to pick back up in the closing quarter, they were unable to match Cumberland’s new offensive fervor, falling 57-51 when it was all said and done.
Nora Berry led the Lady Raiders with 19 points. Sydnie Anderson notched 14 and Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad contributed 11.
Cleveland finishes its season with a 19-9 record and an 8-3 mark in District 5-AAA play.
“I’m pleased with the season as a whole, but we let this one get away. The good thing is that we get everyone back next season, and I think these girls are going to be focused and hungry when they get back together,” Kiser surmised.
Cumberland County 6 13 21 17 — 57
Cleveland 12 18 8 13 — 51
Lady Jets (57) — Taylor Vaden 23, Lauren Sliger 13, Jaclyn Reagan 12, Noel 2, Vanwinkle 3, Teeple 4.
Lady Raiders (51) — Nora Berry 19, Sydnie Anderson 14, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 11, Scoggins 4, A. Abdullah-Muhammad, Capron 2.
3-point Goals: Cumberland 4 (Reagan 2, Sliger, Vanwinkle); Cleveland 6 (Berry 5, Anderson).
Free Throws: Cumberland 19-of-23; Cleveland 8-of-15.
Records: Cumberland 18-14; Cleveland 19-6.