Coming in as the No. 4 seed, the Mustangs survived a tough elimination game with Rhea County less than 22 hours before knocking off top-seeded Ooltewah 62-59 Saturday evening to advance to Tuesday night’s championship game.
Making their first district title game since their state tournament run of 2009, Coach Bob Williams’ Stallions will be pitted against the same team they faced that season — cross-county rival Bradley Central.
The third-seeded Bears earned their shot at the belt with a 54-39 stunner over No. 2 Cleveland High in Saturday’s late game.
The 7:30 p.m. title game Tuesday evening will be the third meeting between the two Bradley County schools, as the Bears took the first game by a 73-61 margin in early January, while the Mustangs knocked Bradley out of a chance at the regular season title with a 54-52 upset 13 days ago.
Both teams have also secured a home game for the opening round of the Region 3-AAA Tournament later this week, while Cleveland and Ooltewah, who will play for third place Tuesday at 6 p.m., will have to travel for the first round of the region.
MUSTANGS 62, OWLS 59
After pushing Ooltewah (16-9) to overtime before losing by a point in their last meeting, Walker Valley (17-11) knew it could play with the big boys.
The teams were just separated by a basket (14-12 Owls) at the close of the first period before the Mustangs pulled even (26-all) at the halfway pole.
Reaching a full gallop in the third frame, Walker Valley pulled out to a five-point advantage (45-40) before the teams were neck-and-neck down the back stretch with the Mustangs holding off the hard charging Owls.
Both teams shot 54 percent from the floor in the battle, but Walker Valley got off four more shots to make the difference. The Mustangs hit 22-of-38 shots (58 percent) from in front of the arc and 5-of-12 (41 percent) beyond it, while Ooltewah was red hot from the two-point area (18-for-24, 75 percent), but hit just 7-of-22 shots from distance. The hotly contested action saw just nine combined free throws, with Walker Valley sinking 3-of-4, while the Owls made 2-of-5.
Ooltewah turned the ball over just nine times, compared to 15 for the Mustangs, but Walker Valley won the battle for the boards by an 18-15 margin.
Senior Jackson Brownfield and junior Austin Harwood led the victors with 15 points apiece, while senior Caio Hysinger was right on their heels with 13, including a trio of 3-pointers. Senior Tucker Godfrey and Logan Melton helped out with seven points apiece.
Only two Owls reached double figures, with Jaqueze Robinson drilling three “treys” to top all scorers with 17 points and Andrew Ware adding 11.
BEARS 54, RAIDERS 39
Outscoring the hosts by 5 points in the opening period and four in the second allowed Bradley (16-11) some breathing room with a 28-19 edge at the intermission.
Cleveland (17-10) went toe-to-toe with their arch rivals in the third frame but were only able to shave a point off the lead. Cleveland then went cold from the field in the final eight minutes making just one field goal while the Bears went on a 16-9 run to seal the victory.
Bradley shot 50 percent from the field, hitting 15-of-27 2-point shots and 4-for-11 from 3-point land, while the Raiders made just 30 percent of their attempts — only 10-of-22 from in front of the arc and 3-for-21 from beyond it. The teams were almost even at the free throw line, Bradley sinking 11-of-12 and Cleveland making 10-of-12.
The Bears dominated the glass for a 28-14 rebounding advantage but also turned the ball over twice as much (18-9).
Junior sharpshooter Logan Cox had the hot hand for Bradley hitting a trio of treys and all five of his free throws on his way to a game-high 16 points.
Seniors Bryce Copeland and Matt Whitmire, plus junior Taylor Bentley all netted 10 points for the victors, while senior Caleb Cain chipped in with eight.
Senior CJ Bryant topped the Raider effort with 15 points, including a pair of 3s and 3-of-4 foul shooting, while junior Kendrick Thompson drained all four of his charity tosses on his way to 11 points. Senior Jahmal Johnson netted seven points in the contest.
MUSTANGS 59, EAGLES 54
Using a 12-1 run in the final two minutes to turn a six-point deficit into a five point five-point victory, Walker Valley earned its first region tournament berth since its state tournament run in 2009.
“I’m proud of our guys. We were down, but we didn’t fold our tents and we hung in there to make that final run that turned out to be the difference,” commented Mustang coach Bob Williams. “Rhea County played a great game and our teams are so evenly matched, I knew it would be a tough game. I didn’t breath for the entire 32 minutes.”
After the teams exchanged the game’s first dozen points, the Eagles (11-16) went on a 13-4 streak, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer, to stake claim to a 19-10 edge after the first eight minutes of play.
The boys from across the river went cold in the second frame, hitting just 3-of-12 shots from the field, while the Mustangs closed the gap with an 11-2 run to pull within a basket of the lead and trailed by just four at the intermission.
Walker Valley retook the lead when Tucker Godfrey drilled a 3-pointer with 2:45 to go in the third period and stretched the advantage to seven points when the senor guard stole the ball and drove to the hoop for the lay in with 12 ticks remaining in the frame.
Trailing by 5 points with six minutes to go in the contest, Rhea’s Jalen Smith, who had been held to just three free throws to that point, hit his first field goal of the evening, sparking a 12-0 run as the Eagles soared back in front by 7 points with just under three minutes remaining.
After the teams traded some free throws, the score stood at 53-47 less than two minutes to go when Williams’ Stallions hit full stride, shutting down the Eagle offense with four steals and allowing them just three missed shots from the field the rest of the way.
Austin Harwood started the final push by putting back in an offensive rebound before Lukas Korn put in his 14th point of the night after a Rhea turnover. Senior Caio Hysinger added a free throw and then stole an inbounds pass and fed the ball to teammate Jackson Brownfield for the basket and the lead with 30 ticks on the clock.
After Rhea’s Nick McWherter capped off a game-high 20 points with a charity toss at the 26.3 mark to even the score, Godfrey sank a pair of free throws with 18.7 showing and then two more with 4.1 on the clock. Hysinger added a free throw of his own at the 8.2 mark as the Mustangs didn’t get off a shot from the field down the stretch as the Eagles were fouling to try to get back in the game.
“We played good team defense and were able to shut down Smith until early in the fourth, but McWherter stepped up big for them (Rhea),” coach Williams expressed. Rhea made just 36 percent (18-for-49) of its shots with Smith, who averages more than 21 points a game and put 41 on Cleveland 13 days ago, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the final frame.
“We had a great team effort. We had a lot of hustle and a great effort our starters and (Dustin) Swafford, (Logan) Melton and (Gabe) Cartwright came in and played good as well off the bench for us,” praised coach Williams.
Walker Valley shot 51 percent from the field, hitting 19-of-33 shots from in front of the arc and 3-of-10 from beyond it. Other than in the final 30 seconds, the Mustangs struggle some from the free throw line, sinking just 12-of-23 altogether.
Four Mustangs netted double figures with Godfrey’s 16 leading the way, while Hysinger and Korn finished with 14 apiece and Harwood added 10.
Korn also cleared the glass of eight rebounds and blocked a half dozen shots, while Brownfield swatted a trio of Eagle attempts himself. Hysinger collected four rebounds and four steals in the victory.
Rhea County 19 6 10 19 — 54
Walker Valley 10 11 19 19 — 59
EAGLES (54) — Nick McWherter 20, Jalen Smith 13, Jenkins 6, Patterson 6, G. Hill 4, Hall 2, Hunter 2, Harrison 1, Loden, Downey, L. Hill.
MUSTANGS (59) — Tucker Godfrey 16, Caio Hysinger 14, Lukas Korn 14, Austin Harwood 10, Brownfield 3, Swafford 2, Cartwright, Melton.
3-point goals: Rhea 3 (Patterson 2, Rose); Walker Valley 3 (Hysinger 2, Godfrey).
Free throws: Rhea 13-of-19; Walker Valley 12-of-27.
Records: Rhea County 11-16; Walker Valley 16-11.
Walker Valley 12 14 19 17 — 62
Ooltewah 14 12 14 19 — 59
MUSTANGS (62) — Jackson Brownfield 15, Austin Harwood 15, Caio Hysinger 13, Godfrew 7, Melton 7, Korn 3, Swafford 2, Anthong, Cartwright, Morrow, Russell, Crews.
OWLS (36) — Jaqueze Robinson 17, Andrew Ware 11, Maston 9, Snider 8, Bass 5, Jacson 4, King 3, Turner 2,Hasanbegovic, Fritz, Boyd, Carr, Presley, Cothran, Wooden.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 4 (Hysinger 3, Melton 1, Brownfield 1); Ooltewah 7 (Robinson 3, Snider, Maston, Bass, King).
Free throws: Walker Valley 3-of-5; Ooltewah 2-of-4.
Records: Walker Valley 17-11; Ooltewah 16-9.
Bradley Central 16 12 10 16 — 54
Cleveland 11 8 11 9 — 39
BEARS (54)— Logan Cox 16, Bryce Copeland 10, Matthew Whitmore 10, Taylor Bentley 10, Cain 8, Terrell, Crisp, McGowan, Maroon, Clark, Morgan, McCurdy.
BLUE RAIDERS (39) — CJ Bryant 15, Kendrick Thompson 11, Johnson 7 Beaty 2, Little 2, Jones 2, Ware, Scott, Brown, Constance, Dykes, Bunion, Gibson, McCree.
3-point goals: Bradley Central 5 (Cox 3, Bentley 2); Cleveland 3 (Bryant 2, Thompson).
Free throws: Bradley Central 11-of-12; Cleveland 10-of-12.
Records: Bradley Central 16-11; Cleveland 17-10.