The various approaches and designs, he said, only serve to strengthen and improve the Raiders’ capabilities when facing teams with characteristics and techniques outside the normal looks.
The Blue Raiders (10-5) got a large lesson in how to deal with a different-looking team when the Cumberland County Jets (7-11) landed inside Walker Arena Saturday at Lee University.
The Raiders started strong, battled through foul trouble then picked it back up in the fourth quarter to send the Jets back to base with a 52-36 loss.
“It was a great start and a good finish,” said McCowan. “The foul trouble in the second and third quarter took our tempo out of it. It was hard to get that back and going again in the third quarter. And we missed a lot of easy shots. If you can’t score, you can’t press. That made for a flat third quarter. But once we were able to score again, it put pressure back on them and we were able to increase the lead.”
The night for Cleveland began with an impressive start on both ends of the court. Five different Blue Raiders shared in putting 15 points on the board in the first quarter. On the defensive side, Cumberland County’s Jets helped out by missing the first 14 shots they put up.
The first Cumberland points came with 5:45 left in the first half on two free throws. The shots, combined with a marked increase in Cleveland fouls, helped set the Jets up with thoughts of an upset.
Cumberland went on to score 11 more in the second and closed the 15-0 gap to 26-15 as the Cleveland offensive output slowed by four in the second.
“We got in foul trouble. We weren’t fouling defensively, we were offensive fouling. They (Cumberland) do a good job of stepping in and not leaving their feet to try and block a shot,” McCowan said of the second quarter slowdown. “When ... both TyQwon and Cantrel Ware got into a little foul trouble, we had to change our defensive intensity. That let them back into the ballgame.”
Anfernee Scott stepped up on offense for Cleveland, leading the Blue Raiders with 16 points. TyQwon Ware ended his night with 13.
The teams swapped roles in the third quarter with Cumberland coming out of the half with a 9-0 run. The Raiders finally found the bottom of the net with just over two minutes left and closed out the third quarter with seven consecutive points to hold a 33-24 lead.
The Raiders found their feet again in the fourth. Cantrel Ware opened with a 3-pointer and followed with a three-point play a minute later to put Cleveland back out front by 11. TyQuan Ware gave Cleveland a 15-point lead midway through the quarter.
From there, the Raiders stepped to the free-throw line 11 times the rest of the way and locked up the win with eight made shots. Defensively, Cleveland held Cumberland to 12 points in the final eight minutes.
McCowan said he was happy with the win and hopes the different style of play displayed by the Jets will pay off down the line.
“There are teams in our district that leave their feet all the time trying to block shots and there are some teams that are very disciplined and stand in there and take a hit. I like playing the different styles, because you hope it teaches kids to be better all-around players. That’s ultimately what we’re trying to do,” he said.
“We are definitely getting ready for the game Friday. It is a very disciplined (Bradley Central) team we will be going against. Our guards have got to be better at reading what they can get.”
BLUE RAIDERS 52, JETS 36
Cumberland County 0 15 9 12 — 36
Cleveland 15 11 7 19 — 52
Cumberland (36) — Logan Parsons 16, Smith 8, Tabor 5, McLaughlin 4, Poor 2, Brown 1, Graham, Elliot, Dixon, Vaden, McClain.
Cleveland (52) — Anfernee Scott 16, TyQwon Ware 13, Cantrel Ware 8, Tatum, 4, Vecchio 4, Dennard 4, Brown 3, Beaty, Munoz, Gibson, K. Ware.
3-point goals: Cumberland 4 (Smith 2, Parsons, Tabor); Cleveland 4 (T. Ware, C. Ware, Scott, Brown).
Records: Cumberland County 7-11; Cleveland 10-5.