All the District 5-AAA boys’ basketball coaches knew coming into the tournament that seedings meant very little. That proved true Saturday as No. 3 Cleveland High will battle fourth-seeded Walker Valley for the district crown Tuesday evening.
For the second straight year, the Mustangs have come into the district postseason as the fourth-place team and will be looking for their second straight crown when they battle the Blue Raiders.
After a couple of heartbreaking losses to top-seeded Bradley Central during the regular seasons, Walker Valley had four players net double figures as it claimed its 20th victory of the year with a 71-59 win over the Bears Saturday evening at East Hamilton High School.
Cleveland, on the other hand, was led by senior Kendrick Thompson’s third 35-point performance of the season in a key 67-60 victory over second-seeded Ooltewah.
The results mean Walker Valley (20-9) will not only battle Cleveland (17-7) Tuesday evening at 7:30 for the district title, but both teams will also host Region 3-AAA opening round games Saturday evening.
Bradley (14-11) and Ooltewah (15-10) will meet for the third time this season to determine third place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, plus will have to travel to the District 6-AAA champion and runner-up to open region play.
On the girls’ side, top-seeded Bradley Central roared past No. 4 seed Cleveland High 63-28 in one semifinal, while second-seeded McMinn County claimed its third win of the season over No. 3 Walker Valley in a tight 60-57 battle.
The Bearettes (21-5) will tangle with the Lady Cherokees (11-16) for the 5-AAA title Monday evening at 7:30. Both teams will also host opening round region games on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Lady Mustangs (17-11) and Lady Raiders (13-13) will vie for third place Monday at 6 p.m., plus hit the road Friday for region openers at the home of the 6-AAA champ and second-place team.
MUSTANGS 71, BEARS 59
Walker Valley galloped out of the gate to a 14-6 edge by the first buzzer, before Bradley fought back to close the gap to a half dozen points (32-26) at the half.
After another evenly matched (18-17) eight-minute span saw the Mustangs add another point to its advantage, the horsemen from the north side of the county made sure the game wasn’t going to come down to another last-second shot like the previous two meetings.
Walker Valley outscored the Bears by a 21-16 margin down the stretch to win by a dozen.
“After we (WV) lost to them (Bradley) the last time, I told our kids in the locker room that we’d have another opportunity to play them,” remarked Mustang head coach Bob Williams. “Our guys always get up to play Bradley or Cleveland. We love playing them.
“We’re improving. I like where we are as a team right now,” he added.
The Walker Valley scoring was evenly spread out with senior Brandon Crews netting 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while classmate Lukas Korn pumped in a dozen markers.
Senior Austin Harwood helped out with 11 points, eight of which came in the second half, with freshman Bryce Nunnelly coming off the bench to collected 10.
The Mustangs won the battle of the boards by a 31-27 margin, while both teams turned the ball over just five times.
Walker Valley shot 55 percent (20-of-36) from inside the arc and 45 percent (5-for-11) from distance.
The Bears struggled some from the field, going 8-of-29 (27 percent) on two-pointers and 8-for-25 (32 percent) from three-point land.
Senior Taylor Bentley topped Bradley with a game-high 19 points, while classmate Logan Cox drained a trio of treys on his way to 13 markers.
BLUE RAIDERS 67,
Splitting their two regular season matchups, Cleveland took the most important pairing between the two old rivals, using a third period run to account for the difference.
After Ooltewah led 15-13 at the end of the opening frame, the Raiders were able to knot the score at 29-all going into the intermission.
Coming out of the locker rooms strong, Cleveland made an early run and by the close of the third period found themselves up 46-39.
Both teams posted their highest outputs of the evening in the final eight minutes, ripping the cords for 21 points apiece.
“We knew this was going to be a battle,” declared an exuberant Coach Jason McCowan afterwards. “Our zone (defense) gave them some trouble. We know each other very well, so it was really a matter of execution.”
For the third time this season, Raider senior Kendrick Thompson sizzled the nylon for 35 points, including 19 in the second half. He drained a trio of long-range bombs and went 6-for-8 at the free throw line for his game-high total.
“Kendrick did a great job. He’s a whale of a player,” praised Coach McCowan. “He stayed calm and made good decisions. He also had several assists.”
Sophomore Cantrel Ware helped out the winning cause with a dozen points, going a perfect 8-for-8 at the charity stripe. Jake Gibson pitched in with seven points, all in the second half, while Isaiah Beaty had a couple of big fourth-quarter buckets.
Ben Snider once again led the Ooltewah effort with 21 points, but only seven of his markers came in the second half. Jaymeal Johnson, who had a trio of “treys,” and Ron King added 13 and 12 points respectively to the Owl tally.
LADY RAIDERS 28
When the two cross-town rivals met up for a third time in the district semifinals, there was no doubt that each team knew what they were up against.
For Cleveland head coach Mindy Kiser, her team’s hot and cold offense reared its head at a time that was very inconvenient.
“We’re an up and down team and we just hope that we’re up when we play really good teams. We didn’t have the depth that we would’ve liked to have and didn’t play like we wanted to tonight,” Kiser said.
Winning the tip off, Bradley was able to get things started by scoring 11 unanswered points in around the first four minutes of the game.
“I don’t know if we came out with more focus all year as we did tonight. You saw energy, speed and intensity out there. Once we went up 7-0, I knew this was over, with no disrespect to Cleveland. We have the bigger, more experienced team and were supposed to win this ball game. I’m just proud of how the girls came out,” Bearettes head coach Jason Reuter stated.
A free throw by Jenna Scoggins at 4:15 erased the goose egg from the Lady Raiders’ side of the scoreboard, but a 3-pointer by Brooke Copeland 30 seconds later made things 14-1 in favor of the Bearettes.
Cleveland’s Bre Ware and Hallea McClendon chipped in, so that the first quarter came to a close with Bradley up 22-9.
Back-to-back 2-point field goals by Ware in the start of the second narrowed the deficit to nine points, but Bradley was quick to regain control of the ball for the remainder of the first half.
While the Bearettes were able to add 16 more points to the scoreboard in the second quarter, the Lady Raiders got only six points.
With a 38-15 lead to start off the second half, Bradley continued their dominance over Cleveland.
The Lady Raiders were trailing 43-15 when Graicyn Walkup headed to the charity stripe with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
Her two points from the free throw line, followed up a minute later with two more points from the free throw line by Scoggins made it 43-19.
Bradley added insult to injury in the next minute with a point by Julia Gaither, a trey by Emma Kate Brown, and a basket by Halle Hughes, which put them 30 points up over Cleveland.
The third came to a close with the Bearettes up 49-22.
Rebecca Reuter opened up the final quarter with back-to-back baskets, which Copeland followed up with a basket of her own a minute later.
Now trailing 33 points, Ware sank a 3-point bomb to the Lady Raiders’ deficit to 30 points with 4:41 remaining in the game.
Cleveland was able to add three more points before time ran out, while the Bearettes finished things out with eight more points.
Ware led the Lady Raiders with 13 points.
Copeland led Bradley in scoring with a total of 20 points and also had eight rebounds and two blocks in the game.
Reuter finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Emma Kate Brown had 10 points in the game as well.
Bradley was nearly perfect from the free throw line, hitting 14-of-15 attempts.
“Knock on wood, this team has the chance to be the best free throw shooting team I’ve ever coach. We’re shooting over 74 percent as a team from the free throw line. We’re winning for two reasons: we’re shooting free throws and we’re rebounding,” Reuter declared.
In overall shooting, the Bearettes shot 20-for-53 while the Lady Raiders were 9-for-45.
Cleveland faces yet another familiar foe on Monday in the consolation game. They take on Walker Valley at 6 p.m.
“I just hope we play better on the offensive end then we did this past Monday,” Kiser commented. “It’s a good opportunity to play a team we’re familiar with and to make some adjustments and play better than we have been.”
Bradley will face McMinn, who they have beaten in both regular season games, at 7:30 p.m.
“We would love nothing better than to get that championship on Monday,” Reuter declared.
LADY CHEROKEES 60
LADY MUSTANGS 57
The Lady Mustangs and Lady Cherokees got things started off with a bang Saturday afternoon.
For the Walker Valley girls, the rematch with McMinn County gave them a chance for retribution for their two regular season losses.
Unfortunately for the Lady Mustangs, the Lady Cherokees were able to ride off into the sunset with a third win under their belts and a trip to the 5-AAA girls’ championship game in hand.
Walker Valley, on the flip side, was still able to secure a trip to the Region 3A tournament and will have their seeding decided following the consolation game on Monday against Cleveland.
“It will hurt a little bit then we will get back at it and focus on Monday and the regions coming up,” Walker Valley head coach Jessica Stone stated.
While the Lady Cherokees were able to strike first with a 2-point field goal off the tip off, the game seemed poised in the Lady Mustangs favor as they went on a 10-point run in the first three minutes of the quarter.
McMinn was only able to add six more points to their score by the end of the first, while Walker Valley finished strong with 10 more points.
With a 20-8 lead to start off the second, the Lady Mustangs furthered their momentum with a bucket by Lyndsey Macon off a steal 40 seconds into the quarter.
Thinks began to take a negative turn a minute later when one of Walker Valley’s leading scorers, Jaclyn Griffith, went down with an injury.
According to Coach Stone, the temporary loss of Griffith in the second quarter resulted in things going downhill for the Lady Mustangs.
“Jaclyn got hurt and everything just kind of went into a hole for a while. We just didn’t do the small things: we didn’t execute or make layups, had too many turnovers and didn’t rebound good enough,” Stone explained.
The Lady Cherokees were able to battle back over the next five minutes of play, cutting their deficit to just five points at the half.
With the momentum swaying toward the Tribe, Keke Smith was able to net a trey in the first minute of the third that brought her team within two points of the Lady Mustangs.
An ill-timed turnover by Walker Valley gave McMinn the opportunity to tie things up at 32 just 30 seconds later.
A trey from McMinn’s Rachel Burke marked the first point in the game that the Lady Cherokees had the lead at 35-32.
DJ Mowery hit a layup that brought the Lady Mustangs within one point, which was followed up by a 3-pointer from Kat Alomar and then Griffith.
Up by five points with just under three and a half left in the third, Walker Valley was able to fight off McMinn’s surging offense and end the quarter up 47-42.
The fourth quarter proved to be an immense game of back-and-forth as the Lady Cherokees were nipping at the Lady Mustangs’ heels for the first four minutes of the quarter.
With a little over three minutes left, McMinn jumped ahead of Walker Valley 55-54 and was able to maintain hold of the lead for the remainder of the game.
A final free throw by Burke with 8.2 seconds left sealed the game up 60-57, and sent the Lady Mustangs off to a battle for third place in the district.
Alomar led the Lady Mustangs with 19 points, with Griffith and Macon finishing the game with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Cleveland 9 6 7 6 — 28
Bradley Central 22 16 11 14 — 63
LADY RAIDERS (28) — Bre Ware 13, Scoggins 7, Walkup 3, Person 2, McClendon 2, Berry, Buchner, Borton, Crump, Phillips.
BEARETTES (63) — Brooke Copeland 20, Rebecca Reuter 14, Emma Kate Brown 10, Hughes 6, Stallings 6, Davis 2, Brumfield 2, McRee 2, Gaither 1, K. Brown, Delane, Summars.
3-Point Goals: Cleveland 1 (Ware); Bradley 5 (EK Brown 2, Stallings 2, Copeland).
Records: Cleveland 13-13; Bradley Central 21-5.
Walker Valley 20 13 15 10 — 57
McMinn County 8 19 15 18 — 60
LADY MUSTANGS (57) — Kathleen Alomar 19, Jacklyn Griffith 12, Lyndsey Macon 10, Jones 8, Mowery 6, Percy, Patel, Cox, Lay, White, C. Davis, P. Davis.
LADY CHEROKEES (60) — Keke Smith 18, Rachel Burke 13, Rachel Simbeck 13, Wilson 8 Kelley 6, Dispensa 2, Harper, Cornett, Gaines, Maddron, Montgomery, Thompson, Sliger, Robinson, Bryant.
3-Point Goals: WV 7 (Griffith 3, Alomar 2, Jones 2); McMinn 8 (Smith 4, Burke 2, Simbeck 2).
Records: Walker Valley 17-11; McMinn County 11-16.
Cleveland 13 16 17 21 — 67
Ooltewah 15 14 10 21 — 60
BLUE RAIDERS (67) — Kendrick Thompson 35, Cantrel Ware 12,Gibson 7, T. Ware 5, Beaty 4, Brown 2, Vecchio 2, McRee.
OWLS (60) — Ben Snider 21, Jaymeal Johnson 13, Ron King 12, Montgomery 6, Boyd 3, Ross 3, Freeman 2, Jones.
3-Point Goals: Cleveland 4 (Thompson 3, T. Ware); Ooltewah 5 (Johnson 3, King, Ross).
Free Throws: Cleveland 21-of-31; Ooltewah 21-of-30.
Records: Cleveland 17-7; Ooltewah 15-10.
Walker Valley 14 18 18 21 — 71
Bradley Central 6 20 17 16 — 59
MUSTANGS (71) — Brandon Crews 13, Lukas Korn 12, Austin Harwood 11, Bryce Nunnelly 10, Herd 8, Swafford 6, L. Melton 5, Jones 2, Morrow 2, C. Melton 2, Williams, B. Swafford, Montgomery, Conway.
BEARS (59) — Taylor Bentley 19, Logan Cox 13, Copeland 9, Clark 8, McCurdy 6, Crisp 3, Morgan 1, Gregory, Maroon, Pitner.
3-Point Goals: WV 5 (Crews 2, Herd 2, Harwood); BC 8 (Cox 3, Bentley 2, Clark 2, Copeland).
Free throws: WV 16-of-21; BC 19-of-28.
Records: Walker Valley 20-9; Bradley Central 14-11.