OOLTEWAH — Coming off of a clean sweep of McMinn County last Friday, both Cleveland hoops squads traveled down to Ooltewah with hopes of further improving their District 5-AAA record.
Despite being the favored team on paper, the Lady Raiders (8-7, 3-3) came up one point short against the Lady Owls (5-8, 3-2), while the Raiders (8-5, 4-2) sent shockwaves through the district with their eight point victory over the Owls (9-7, 4-2).
Even though Cleveland was the assumed underdog going up against a talented Ooltewah team, the “Blue [Collar]” Raiders were able to hold off the Owls and come away with a 58-50 District 5-AAA victory.
While Cleveland got off to a rocky 1-4 start this season, things seem to be taking a turn in their favor.
“We’ve won seven out of our last eight, and sometimes I look around and wonder how we’ve won those,” Raiders head coach Jason McCowan stated. “We’ve got a lot of contributions from different players each and every night. It’s not the prettiest game in the world, but we’re playing hard.”
One of Cleveland’s most consistent contributors has been senior Kendrick Thompson, who has led the team in scoring this season and is four points away from the 1,000 mark. Tuesday was no different, as Thompson finished the night with a total of 22 points.
The Raiders started strong against the Owls, finishing the first quarter up 15-11.
Halfway through the second quarter, Ooltewah was able to go on a 10-point run, which gave it a two point lead with a little under two minutes left in the quarter.
“You could tell when Ooltewah made their run we had some guys in there making execution mistakes. We’ll be working to get those issues figured out and fixed,” McCowan said.
A 3-pointer from Jake Gibson, who has been a momentum changer in the Raiders’ past few games, tied things back up with 90 seconds remaining in the half.
Ooltewah sharpshooter Ben Snider chipped in a basket less than 30 seconds later to push things in favor of the Owls, but Cleveland’s Mason Brown was able to tie things up with 20 seconds remaining on the clock.
“We kept our composure against their zone and got them spread out. Mason hit a big shot there late in the middle to calm us down. We adjusted to their pressure well,” McCowan described.
Thompson, who was only steps away from half court, sank a shot at the buzzer to give the Raiders a 31-30 lead going into halftime.
In the third quarter Cleveland was able to hold Ooltewah to just six points, while adding 15 more points to the scoreboard.
The Raiders went on a nine-point run to get the second half started, holding the Owls scoreless for the first four minutes of the third quarter.
For Coach McCowan, senior Anfernee Scott’s experience on the court and defensive skills was a big help Tuesday night.
“Anfernee is a good defender and good rebounder as well. He’s a senior who has pretty good experience, so I think he calms us down a bit when he plays well,” McCowan commented. “It’s nice to see him stepping up and doing some of those little things for us.”
Snider, who scored 22 points for the Owls, once again made his presence known in the fourth quarter, this time from the free-throw line.
Out of Ooltewah’s 14 points in the final quarter, eight of those were knocked in by Snider, with six coming from the charity stripe.
Despite being outshot 14-12 in the final eight minutes of play, the lead that Cleveland had built up was sustained by its play in the fourth quarter.
“Keeping them off the boards and not allowing them second-chance shots was huge because they do such a good job on the boards. We were also able to weather the Snider storm there in the end,” McCowan explained.
LADY OWLS 42,
LADY RAIDERS 41
Missed chances and wasted opportunities came back to haunt the Lady Raiders Tuesday evening as they saw a stellar third quarter fall into an unfortunate fourth quarter effort.
“We had our opportunities, whether it be from the free-throw line, 3-point line or offensive putbacks, but we weren’t able to make the most of those opportunities,” Cleveland head coach Mindy Kiser stated. “We had a great stretch there to start the half and pretty much in all of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter when we had the lead, we didn’t protect the lead. All the little things add up.”
The Lady Raiders had a two-point lead over the Lady Owls after the first quarter, but Ooltewah was able to take a 25-20 lead by the half.
“We started off shooting the ball absolutely horrible. I thought we went to the boards, but didn’t get a lot of put-backs or things I’d like to see us get every night,” Kiser declared.
Things came to life for the Lady Raiders in the third quarter, as Nora Berry went on an eight-point run that gave her team a three-point lead over the Lady Owls.
Hallea McClendon chipped in four points of her own before Berry’s final five points of the quarter gave Cleveland a 37-32 lead over Ooltewah.
Unfortunately for the Lady Raiders, the Lady Owls were able to battle back and snatch away the district win in the fourth quarter.
“On the offensive end it took us until the second half to find our stride. Ooltewah played hard. This is their gym, they have a lot of pride in that and we weren’t ready to play hard enough to go win the ballgame,” Kiser said.
An India Corley-led Ooltewah team outscored Cleveland 10-4 in those final eight minutes of play.
The consequences of the Lady Raiders’ missed chances became known as a foul shot by Corley gave the Lady Owls the 42-41 win.
“We’re going to be watching a lot of film. We need to see what it is that is getting us into the positions that we’re getting in late in these ball games,” Kiser said. “We’ve still got several ballgames left, so we’ll get it figured out, keep working and fighting.”
Berry finished the game with 18 points and McClendon had nine points of her own.
The Lady Raiders shot 50 percent from the charity stripe, hitting only 8-of-16 free-throws.
Cleveland’s district play continues on Friday with a trip to Soddy-Daisy.
In their previous meeting, the Lady Raiders defeated the Lady Trojans, 52-33, while the Raiders came away with a 62-54 win over the Trojans.
Cleveland 11 9 17 4 — 41
Ooltewah 9 16 7 10 — 42
LADY RAIDERS (41) — Nora Berry 18, McClendon 9, Scoggins 5, Crump 4, Ware 3, Person 2, Stamatiadis, Borton, Walkup, Phillips, Morman.
LADY OWLS (42) — India Corley 15, Tamiyah Baker 11, Cooper 6, Hall 4, Henderson 4, Jones 2, Cline, Cain, Taylor, Thompson, Reed.
3-POINTERS: CHS 3 ( Berry, Ware, Scoggins); O 4 (Cooper 2, Baker 2).
FREE THROWS: CHS 8-of-16; O 6-of-9.
RECORDS: Cleveland 8-7, 3-3 District 5-AAA; Ooltewah 5-8, 3-2 District 5-AAA.
Cleveland 15 16 15 12 — 58
Ooltewah 11 19 6 14 — 50
RAIDERS (58) — Kendrick Thompson 22, Scott 8, C. Ware 7, Beaty 7, Brown 6, Gibson 5, Dennard 2, T. Ware 1, Bracero, Vecchio, Munoz, Oliver, McRee.
OWLS (50) — Ben Snider 22, Edward Montgomery 11, Johnson 7, Boyd 6, Fritz 2, Ross 2, King, Freeman, Williams, Strickland, Cathran.
3-POINTERS: CHS 8 (Thompson 6, C. Ware, Gibson); O 2 (Johnson, Montgomery).
FREE THROWS: CHS 10-of-13; O 12-of-16.
RECORDS: Cleveland 8-5, 4-2 District 5-AAA; Ooltewah 9-7, 4-2 District 5-AAA.