In a battle of nationally ranked teams at L. Quentin Lane Gymnasium, the 13th ranked Cleveland State Cougars pushed Motlow State to the wire before falling on Saturday afternoon to the 28th ranked Bucks by a final of 66-58.
The ladies contest was never in doubt as the Lady Cougars handed the Lady Bucks a 58-39 defeat as both Cleveland State teams finished a long weekend of basketball with a split of the four Region VII Conference games.
On Friday night, the Cleveland State teams split their games with Volunteer State.
The 24th ranked Lady Pioneers remained undefeated with a tough 56-49 win over the Lady Cougars, while the Cougars outlasted the Pioneers in an overtime thriller by a final score of 85-76.
LADY COUGARS 58,
LADY BUCKS 39
Hannah Brown connected twice from three-point land to start the game and the Lady Cougars never looked back as they opened the contest with a 15-4 run. A pair of steals and buckets from Jara Gasper and two more steals and layups by Robyn Anthony helped the home team to a 32-21 halftime advantage.
The lead widened steadily in the second half as Gasper knocked down a pair of treys while Mercedes Owens and Anthony did the same. Shadave Taylor added a pair of nice spinning drives to the hoop and Diamond Freeman and Me'Lisa Martinez made their marks in the scoring column as the Lady Cougars cruised to the win.
"We came out today with a lot of energy and executed like we are capable of today," stated Lady Cougar coach Dan Lumpkin.
"We got off to a fast start which we didn't do last night and it made a big difference. We got contributions from a lot of different girls and that's what we have to have each and every time out."
Gasper led all scorers with 12 points for the Lady Cougars (6-5, 3-3) while Anthony finished with nine. Lekera Taylor had 11 to pace Motlow State while Erica Ervin finished with eight.
BUCKS 66, COUGARS 58
Travis Jones scored the first seven Cougar points including a long three-pointer and the race was on as the two teams traded buckets and the lead throughout the game. Both teams had a five point lead in the half. A three-point bomb from Ralph Eason put the Cougars on top, 34-31, but two straight hoops in the paint from Raul Tutton would give the Bucks a 35-34 lead at the break.
The lead seesawed back and forth eight more times throughout the second half. A 9-2 Motlow run at the seven minute mark seemed to be the difference as they would never trail again. An alley-oop slam dunk from Xavier Okoro on an in bounds play from Jones brought the crowd to its feet and a pair of tough buckets in the paint by Trey Suttles cut the lead back to three points, but the Bucks were able to hit just enough free tosses down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Suttles paced the Cougars (9-2, 5-1) with 19 points while Eason and Jones added 13 apiece. Perrin Buford led the Bucks with 12 points while D.J. Jones finished with 11 and Michael Tomlin added 10.
COUGARS 85, PIONEERS 76
The Cougars spent most of the night looking up at the extremely tall Pioneers, but in the end it was an obstacle that they would overcome to stay undefeated in conference play.
The lead switched hands several times in the first half before the Pioneers went on a 13-2 run to take a double digit lead, 31-20. The Cougars then came to life in the final five minutes as Eason nailed a three-pointer, Xavier Okoro added an offensive rebound and slam dunk all in one motion and Trey Suttles picked up two of his 12 first half points in the paint on the back end of a beautiful pass from Kahan Swift to help their team stay close, trailing 41-33 at the break.
A little full court pressure to open the second half was just what the doctor ordered for the Cougars as they needed only about four minutes to erase the halftime deficit and take the lead. Filipe Goncalves provided the spart with two straight steals and layups while Tre Everette added an offensive rebound and a short jumper to the cause for a pair of buckets to give the home team a 47-46 lead.
The lead changed hands eight times down the stretch. Reid Burke hit a long jumper for the Pioneers to tie the game at 71. Eason topped that with an acrobatic reverse layup to put Cleveland State back on top with 10 seconds left. Alex Marzette then banked home the game tying shot for Volunteer State to send it into overtime.
It was all Cleveland State in the extra frame. Two free tosses put the Pioneers on top, but then the Xavier Okoro show took center stage as the 6'4 freshman slammed home another offensive rebound and followed that with a huge three-point play to give his team a five point lead. Another rim-rattler from Okoro and an exclamation point slam from Suttles sealed the deal as the Cougars took the win.
"Volunteer State is a very good team and we were fortunate to get the win," said Cougar coach Lee Cigliano. "They slowed us down with their zone defense and it gave us some trouble, but really I think we just outlasted them and then took control in overtime. This was a big win, Xavier and Filipe really gave us a big lift off the bench and provided a lot of energy and I think we fed off that."
Suttles and Jones led the way for the Cougars with 22 points each, while Eason added 15 and Okoro had 12. Thomas Wright paced the Pioneers (5-3, 1-3) with 15 points, Marzette added 13 and Burke had 11.
LADY PIONEERS 56, LADY COUGARS 49
The Lady Cougars fell behind 10-2 on Friday night and never quite recovered although they stayed within stiking distance all game long. The home team fell behind by as many as 13 points, before a three-pointer from Chelsea Jones and a pair of layups by Robyn Anthony spurred a run that helped to slice the Lady Pioneer lead down to nine points, 27-18 at halftime.
The second half was all runs as Volunteer State started the second half with a big run to open up its largest lead at 15 points, 37-22. The Lady Cougars responded with two different runs, cutting the lead to only five points each time.
A steal and layup by Jara Gasper and back to back threes from Gasper and Mercedes Owens started the comeback attempts, but it would get no closer than five points as the much taller Lady Pioneers flexed their muscles in the paint each time to hang on to the lead.
Gasper led the Lady Cougars with 11 points while Anthony added eight. Sara Bliss paced the Lady Pioneers (9-0, 5-0) with 10 points while Heather Vann, Brianna Neal and Kristine Rishel all had eight points each.
Both Cleveland State teams will jump back into action on Wednesday night as they host Snead State at 6:00.