That was before Cleveland caught fire in the second half, came back from 11 points down twice and tied the game twice in the fourth quarter. The Lady Mustangs regrouped just enough in the final minute to hold on for a 59-54 win.
“It’s a game of runs. They are going to make runs and we are going to make runs. We are learning to respond better against teams that make runs against us,” said Lady Mustangs coach Jessica Stone after the hard-fought win. “Last year I felt like because of the maturity level of our team, when a team made a run against us we would put our heads down. But this year they understand they make a run and we make a run. We respond a lot better to that.”
The Lady Mustangs ( 9-4, 4-1 5-AAA) hit their first five shots from the field and led the Lady Raiders (7-6, 2-2) 12-2 midway through the first quarter. Jenna Scoggins put up a 3-pointer for Cleveland to help close the gap to 12-9. The Lady Raiders went on to hit 8-of-10 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line to lead 20-11 after the first stanza.
“Jamiyah Person was out tonight and she would have made a little bit of a difference for us. She is a great rebounder and brings so much energy to the floor. So right away our lineup and substitution power completely changed,” said Lady Raiders coach Mindy Kiser of the different looking lineup. “Sofia Stamatiatis played a ton of minutes tonight. She probably played more tonight than she has the entire season. I thought she did a really good job.”
Stamatiatis led Cleveland with 15 points including three 3-pointers. Nora Berry followed up with 13 and Jenna Scoggins and Bre Ware wound up with 10 points each. Berry Ware and Scoggins all hit two 3-pointers apiece.
The Lady Mustangs were led by Victoria Jones who opened with back-to-back 3s and finished with 3 treys. Lyndsey Macon scored 13 and Jaclyn Griffith hit double figures with 11 points and also added a 3.
The Lady Mustangs took advantage of free-throw opportunities in the second and after a Berry 3 that made it a five-point game, the Lady Mustangs built the lead back to nine and held a 35-26 advantage at halftime.
“Early on I don’t know what we were expecting. They jumped out early and it took us a while to score. I didn’t call a timeout and let us play through that. I thought we did a really good job of clawing our way back,” said Kiser.
Ware and Stamatiatis got the hot hands for the Lady Raiders in the third quarter and lifted in 3s that cut the Walker Valley lead to 35-34. The Lady Mustangs rallied back with an 8-0 run that put the Walker Valley girls on top 43-34. Ware and Stamatiatis connected on back-to-back-to-back treys inside two minutes to go in the quarter to keep Cleveland close. Griffith connected on a trey for the Lady Mustangs in the closing seconds to keep Walker Valley out front 48-43.
“They (the Lady Raiders) hit big shots. But I think our girls are trusting each other more and I thought as a team we played well defensively. Offensively we’ve still got to be more patient,” said Stone.
The Lady Raiders outscored the Lady Mustangs 5-2 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to make it a 50-49 game. Lyndsey Macon put Walker Valley up by three just in front of a Berry 3 from the right wing that tied the game a 52-all with 3:23 left to play.
“There in the last 45 seconds we probably got four looks I would take any day on any possession,” Kiser said of the final seconds of the game. “We rebounded, we kicked to the right people. We drew a couple of things up and executed them the best we could.”
Cleveland again tied the game at 54-54 before a Victoria Jones 3-pointer with 41 seconds to go gave the lead back to the Lady Mustangs. The Lady Raiders missed two open looks from behind the arc with time running out and sent Macon to the line with 11.5 seconds left in the game to ice the win with two free throws. Another 3-point miss by Cleveland with five seconds to go made it a 59-54 final.
Stone said the win is hopefully the jump-start the Lady Mustangs will need to get them through a brutal month of basketball.
“January is crazy, there are so many games. But at this point it is one game at a time, one day at a time, one practice at a time,” she said. “Everybody seems to be pretty much on the same page, the attitudes are good and the camaraderie is good,” said Stone.
LADY MUSTANGS 59, LADY RAIDERS 54
Walker Valley 20 15 13 11 — 59
Cleveland 11 15 17 11 — 54
Walker Valley (59) — Victoria Jones 16, Lyndsey Macon 13, Jaclyn Griffith 11, Mowery 9, Spann 4, Alomar 4, P. Davis 2.
Cleveland (54) — Sofia Stamatiatis 15, Nora Berry 13, Jenna Scoggins 10, Bre Ware 10, Crump 2, Walkup 2, McClendon 2, Moorman, Phillips.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 4 (Jones 3, Griffith); Cleveland 9 (Stamatiatis 3, Berry 2, Ware 2, Scoggins 2).
Records: Walker Valley 9-4, 4-1 5-AAA; Cleveland 7-6, 2-2.