CHATTANOOGA — Friday's basketball rematch between Cleveland and Girls Preparatory School proved more to be a pop and fizzle than the expected burst and sizzle of fireworks.
No matter. The Lady Raiders merely used the 50-27 win over the Bruisers to maneuver into position for the championship game against Baylor in the Best of Preps tournament at Chattanooga State.
For Cleveland, however, Saturday's fireworks proved to be as wet as the winter weather and it was Baylor that got the payback. The Lady Red Raiders avenged last year's semifinals loss to Cleveland with a 39-35 overtime win to claim the Best of Preps championship.
"Offensively we are very inconsistent. Yesterday when we played GPS we talked about how we owed GPS. After the game I told them Baylor owes us because we got them last year. Baylor came ready to play," said Cleveland coach Mindy Kiser.
The battle of the Cleveland Lady (Blue) Raiders vs. the Baylor Lady Red Raiders began with Baylor controlling the tip and tempo early, hitting on the first 3-pointer of the game. Baylor followed up with a basket underneath to go up 5-0.
While Cleveland (9-4) struggled from the floor and the free-throw line, Baylor (7-7) also found the going tough after taking the five-point lead. Sydnie Anderson finally got the Lady Raiders on the board with an 8-foot jumper with 2:10 left in the first quarter. Baylor regained its five-point advantage seconds later. With 60 seconds left, Shawnia Anderson dropped in a pair of free throws to make it 7-4.
Shawnia Anderson made it a 1-point game with a basket underneath to open the second quarter. Nearly three minutes later, Anderson put Cleveland on top for the first time, 8-7. A Baylor free throw tied the game at 8-all with 4:44 left in the half and the Red Raiders slipped back into the lead seconds later.
After a Bre Ware free throw cut it to one, Jenna Scoggins sank a 10-foot jumper to put Cleveland out front 11-10. Ware put up the final points of the half with a tough score in the paint and the Lady Blue Raiders headed into halftime with a 13-11 lead.
"Do I think we played a little bit tentative and played not to lose the first quarter? Absolutely," said Kiser of the early Cleveland effort.
As Cleveland labored to find itself in the third quarter, Baylor again took over the lead with seven unanswered points. Berry kept it close with a falling 2-pointer just outside the paint. A Sydnie Anderson free throw made it 19-16 with 2:55 left. Shawnia Anderson cut it to 19-18 with two tosses a minute later. Baylor added four more and Cleveland managed two before the end of the period.
With 5:36 left in the championship and Baylor leading 24-22, Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad sparked a 5-0 Cleveland run that put the Lady Blue Raiders up 27-24 after a Sydnie Anderson 3 from the right wing. Baylor closed it back to a 1-point game with a pair of free throws. Ware went to the line for Cleveland with 2:44 left to play and gave the Lady Raiders a 28-26 lead.
Ware added another toss with 1:27 left to make it 29-26. With free throws the order of the evening, Baylor made it a 1-point game with 1:16 left. Five seconds later, Sydnie Anderson answered with two more for Cleveland. The Lady Red Raiders lifted in a rare field goal with 59 seconds on the clock and Cleveland led 31-30.
In the end, however, it was a driving layup by Baylor's Kaleigh Clemons with two seconds left on the clock that sent the game into overtime, tied at 33-33.
The free-throw contest continued in overtime with Berry hitting 1 of 2 to give Cleveland the lead. A Baylor turnover led to a 35-33 Cleveland lead after another Sydnie Anderson free throw. The Lady Red Raiders came right back to tie it up with 1:55 left and went ahead 37-35 from the line with 54 seconds left. With 27 seconds to go, Baylor knocked down two more to lock up the championship.
"We had every opportunity to win the ballgame in regulation from the free-throw line. Those are the little things that mattered. If you can't step up and hit free throws in overtime it makes it really tough," Kiser said.
"In overtime, we got the look we wanted at the end of the ballgame. The ball is in Nora's hands and she is taking a 3. We've seen her make it a hundred times. You can't fault the look. Sometimes it just doesn't fall the way you want it to. It just goes back to we had every opportunity to win the game in regulation."
All Tournament Team
CSAS, Brooke Mitchell; Brainerd, Jamee Ward; Silverdale, Mariah Massengill, East Hamilton, Juliet Harp; Chattanooga Christian, Hannah Henry; GPS, Akia Harris; Baylor, Jazmine Sumpkins; Cleveland, Sydnie Anderson, Shawnia Anderson; MVP, Kaleigh Clemons, Baylor.
Cleveland 4 9 7 13 2 — 35
Baylor 7 4 13 10 6 — 39
CLEVELAND (35) — Sy. Anderson 9, Sh. Anderson 8, Ware 6. Q. Abdullah-Muhammad 6, Berry 4, Scoggins 2, A. Abdullah-Muhammad, McClendon.
BAYLOR (39) — Kaleigh Clemons 17, Simpkins 2., Huckabay 3, Popp 7, Kaufman 5, Hubert 4, Birdsong 1.
3-Point goals: Cleveland 1 (Sy. Anderson); Baylor 2 (Clemons, Huckabay).
Records: Cleveland 9-4; Baylor 7-7.
Cleveland 20 10 9 11 — 50
GPS 2 11 7 7 — 27
CLEVELAND (50) — Nora Berry 15, Sydnie Anderson 13, Shawnia Anderson 11, Q. Abdullah-Muhammad 5, Scoggins 2, Crump 2, McClendon 2, Ware, Geren, A. Abdullah-Muhammad, Saliba, Capron.
GPS (27) — Sharrock 2, Harris 11, Farris 6, Jackson, Williams, Ca. Key 1, Ch. Key, Spears, Morgan 5, Crownover, Stamey, Shutters 2, Pitts, Ware.
3-Point goals: Cleveland 5 (Berry 3, Sy. Anderson 2); GPS 1 (Morgan).