C.J. Bryant scored 22 points for the Raiders and helped McCowan score his 13th consecutive win over Soddy-Daisy with a 69-42 victory in the first round of the District 5-AAA tournament.
Jahmal Johnson reached double figures for Cleveland with 14.
"Our main goal was to come in here and win. If you lose, you're going home," said McCowan after the win. "You play the first one and now we get to practice and get ready for our next opponent. Having qualified for the region tournament, it's (the two days off before the district semifinals) a little reward for getting the No. 2 seed."
Cleveland takes on the winner of tonight's Bradley Central-McMinn County game, Saturday at 7:30 in the Raider Dome. The Bears (14-11) are the event’s No. 3 seed, while the Cherokees (9-16) are a sixth seed.
The other game this evening features the third-seeded Cleveland (16-8) girls taking on No. 6 Ooltewah (5-19) at 6 p.m.
In Wednesday’s girls’ opener, second-seeded McMinn County (18-7) eliminated Soddy-Daisy (10-15) by a 51-29 margin.
The Lady Cherokees will face the Lady Raiders-Lady Owl victor Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
The Blue Raiders dominated the first half offensively, holding Soddy-Daisy to 14 points in the first 16 minutes. The Trojans scored their last point of the first quarter with 5:18 left to tie the game at 5-5. Jahmal Johnson's steal and slam dunk put the Raiders out front and Isaiah Beaty stretched the lead to 10 points with 1:51 to go in the quarter.
Cleveland kept momentum and control of the game in the second. The Raiders held Soddy-Daisy to five points in the first six minutes of the period while adding 17 to the home side of the scoreboard.
Holding a 35-14 lead to open the third quarter, the Raiders slowed down on the offensive side of the court. Soddy-Daisy broke through the single-digit barrier, scoring 15 points in the quarter to the Raiders’ 17, but remained in a hole it would not climb out of.
"I thought we played hard. The second half we came out and made a few shots and quit boxing out. But, that's just me being really picky," said McCowan. "Overall I thought our kids played really hard. It was a tough atmosphere. We didn't have a lot of kids from our student section here, so it was a little bit flat.”
Cleveland built a 30-point lead early in the fourth quarter allowing McCowan to empty his bench and rest his starters in anticipation of a tough game Saturday against either the Bears or Cherokees.
The Trojans got the best of Cleveland on the boards, outrebounding the Blue Raiders 34-28. Soddy-Daisy committed 24 turnovers to only 11 for Cleveland.
From the field, the Raiders were 27-of-55 overall and hit only 6-of-23 from behind the 3-point line. Soddy-Daisy made good on only 14-of-46 attempts from the floor and scored on 5-of-18 from behind the arc.
"We played a lot of kids. We wanted to get a lot in tonight if we could get up [by a big margin]. This time last year it was 57-52 against them and our bench was really short. You never want to go through a situation like that, but it was easier to get their attention and let them know if they don't take care of business, we will be moving on to the next sport," said the coach.
"It will be a different look as the week gets on. The games will be a little tighter. But, we are looking forward to it and hopefully we can have the exciting atmosphere we have had the last couple of years."
BLUE RAIDERS 69, TROJANS 42
Soddy-Daisy 5 9 15 13 — 42
Cleveland 17 18 17 17 — 69
Soddy-Daisy (42) — James York 14, Landreth 8, Amos 7, Carter 6, Wright 4, Floyd 3, Kearney, Shaughnessy, Millsaps.
Cleveland (69) — C.J. Bryant 22, Jahamal Johnson 14, Thompson 9, Beaty 5, Little 4, Scott 3, Bunion 3, Ware 2, Brown 2, Dykes, Constant, McKee.
3-point goals: Soddy-Daisy 3 (York 2, Landreth); Cleveland 6 (Bryant 3, Thompson 2, Scott).
Free throws: Soddy-Daisy 9-of-16; Cleveland 9-of- 21.
Records: Soddy-Daisy 9-17; Cleveland 17-9.