ATHENS — If the Lady Mustangs — after losing to McMinn County once already this season — didn't know how tough it is to get a District 5-AAA basketball win against the Lady Cherokees, they do now.
The Lady Cherokees (6-15, 6-3 District 5-AAA) battered Walker Valley (13-8, 6-3) in the first half Friday night inside “The Teepee,” before showing up in the third quarter and fading in the fourth losing by two, 47-45.
All six McMinn County wins have come at the hands of district opponents.
If Walker Valley boys coach Bob Williams was concerned about how his Mustangs (12-9, 4-5 District 5-AAA) would fare against the Cherokees (2-18, 1-8), he needn't have. Walker Valley controlled every aspect of the boys game from start to finish and skated to a 33 point, 64-31 district win.
“I was stressed out all week about McMinn,” admitted Williams as the Mustangs exited the dressing room after the win. “McMinn's record is not good, but they played us within two at our place and I didn’t want the guys to take them for granted because of their record. McMinn plays hard, but we came out ready and I was glad to see that. We needed something positive after our last couple of close games.”
Eight Mustangs contributed points to the final total with Lukas Korn picking up 16 points mostly from underneath. Austin Harwood packed in 11 including a 3-pointer and Bryce Nunnelly added a 3 to go with his 10 markers.
“Everyone contributed. It was a total group effort from everyone on both ends. We played good defense and didn’t give up easy shots and rebounded well tonight. On offense, we were patient and when we had opportunities to run we ran. I couldn’t ask from much more from the guys tonight,” said Williams.
Brandon Crews lifted Walker Valley to an 8-2 lead in the first quarter with back-to-back 3s. Korn added two more to make it 12-4 and the Mustangs were off and running.
A 12-0 run put Williams’ Herd up 24-4 with just over four minutes left in the half. The Cherokees scored their first points of the second quarter with 3:55 to go. Nunnelly’s trey with 2:49 on the clock put the Mustangs up by 22. The Cherokees managed four more before the half, but still trailed by 20 headed into the locker room.
After a reminder by the head coach to keep the their feet on the gas, the Mustangs went on to out score the Cherokees 12-6 before Williams pulled the majority of his first five leaving the night to the bench.
“We told them at halftime not to relax, just to keep going and keep going. McMinn is not going to quit. They came back and we answered with a good third quarter. We’ve got 15 guys dressing out, they all practice hard and it’s nice to have an opportunity for all of them to get out there and let the starters and first seven or eight get to watch and relax a bit,” said Williams of the opportunity to stable his workhorses.
The second unit did not disappoint adding 14 points to the final total and running a continuous clock for the better part of the fourth quarter to close out the 64-31 win.
Williams, although pleased with the win, cautioned the Mustangs not to become complacent with a big week of basketball just around the corner.
“But, we can’t let up. We’ve got a tough week next week.” he said. “We’ve got three games with two long road trips to Lenoir City and Soddy-Daisy and then Cleveland on Friday. It's good to get this one under our belt.”
LADY CHEROKEES 47
LADY MUSTANGS 45
The Lady Mustangs played well enough to lead 11-0 after one quarter of play against the McMinn County girls, but quickly faded in the second.
The Lady Cherokees held Walker Valley scoreless for more than five minutes while scoring 15 straight to take a 25-12 lead. The Lady Mustangs managed only three more before halftime and trailed by nine at the buzzer.
“They didn’t show up to play in the first half and it hurt us bad. It was like five different people playing instead of one cohesive group playing,” said a frustrated Stone.
A different group of Lady Mustangs showed up in the third quarter running full speed to chase, catch and pass the Lady Cherokees minutes into the second half.
Emily Spann tied the game and put the Lady Mustangs out front 27-25 midway through the quarter. Kat Alomar put Walker Valley ahead by six minutes later. McMinn County cut it to 31-28 with a 3 with 2:43 left and cut the Walker Valley lead to a single point at the end of the period.
“We talked about playing as a group at half time and in the third quarter they played together. They are a real fun group to watch and coach when they play together. They battled hard the third quarter,” said Stone.
Jaclyn Griffith and Victoria Jones put the Lady Mustangs back out front by six. McMinn whittled it back to a two-point lead with 3:07 left in the game and tied it at 45-45 with 56 second left. The Lady Cherokees took advantage of two missed Walker Valley free throws and eased to a 47-45 lead with 33 ticks on the clocks.
With the ball in the hands of the Lady Mustangs, Stone called a strategy time out with 16 seconds left. The session failed to produce results when a turnover put the ball back into the hands of the Lady Tribe who missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with the Lady Mustangs grabbing the rebound and Stone calling a final time out with 5.9 ticks on the clock.
The Lady Cherokees were able to lock up the win when the inbounds pass rolled out of bounds on a Lady Mustangs turnover.
“We had 24 turnovers, four within the first two minutes of the game and missed our first four layups. We weren’t catching the ball and dribbling it off our legs, things were happening that don’t need to happen. You hate to see that especially this time of year. We’ve got to get them all on the same page and figure out what we need to do to get where we want to be,” Stone lamented.
“Until we figure out how to play as a group there are going to be rough roads.”
LADY CHEROKEES 47, LADY MUSTANGS 45
Walker Valley 11 5 17 12 — 45
McMinn County 10 15 7 15 — 47
Walker Valley (45) — Jaclyn Griffith 12, Lyndsey Macon 10, Spann 8, Jones 7, Alomar 5, Mowery 2, Davis 1.
McMinn County (47) — Shelby Wilson 22, Kiki Smith 10, Burke 9, Simbeck 6, Harper, Cornett, Dispensa, Kelley.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 3 (Jones, Griffith, Alomar); McMinn County 7 (Wilson 6, Burke).
Records: Walker Valley 13-8, 6-3 District 5-AAA; McMinn County 6-15; 6-3.
MUSTANGS 64, CHEROKEES 31
Walker Valley 12 19 19 14 — 64
McMinn County 4 7 7 13 — 31
Walker Valley (64) — Lukas Korn 16, Bryce Nunnelly, Austin Harwood 11, 10, Williams 7, Crews 6. Swafford 6, Jones 4, Montgomery 4, L. Melton, Herd, Morrow, Russell, Hunt, C. Melton, Conway.
McMinn County (47) — Saxton 5, Simpson 5, Sprading 3, Hammonds 2, Martin 2, Brown, 2, Collins 2, Lawson 2, Marshall, Edgemon, Cruze.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 4 (Crews 2, Nunnelly, Harwood); McMinn County 1 (Sprading).
Records: Walker Valley 12-9, 4-5 District 5-AAA; McMinn County 2-18, 1-8.