As is expected in a big, cross-county rivalry game, the intensity was turned up as both Walker Valley basketball squads were able to sweep Cleveland out of “The Stable.”
The Raiders (15-7, 8-4) knew they would come out of Monday’s game with either a second or third place finish in the district, while the Mustangs (18-9, 7-5) were there to show everyone what they are capable of.
“We were looking for a big win like that. We haven’t beaten one of the top three teams this year so that was a great win for us,” Mustangs head coach Bob Williams declared.
In the end, points left at the free-throw line by Cleveland and Walker Valley’s firm control over offensive and defensive rebounding were the deciding factors in the game.
“We’re still kind of plagued by [poor shooting of] free throws, which changes the dynamic of the game. We have to be mentally tougher from the free-throw line,” Cleveland head coach Jason McCowan stated.
The charity stripe has proven to be unfriendly territory for the Raiders, who went 14-for-27 against Ooltewah and 16-for-27 at Walker Valley.
Cleveland’s Mason Brown got his team off on a good start with a 3-point bomb only a dozen seconds into the game.
A minute and a half later a 2-point bucket and free throw from Walker Valley’s Dustin Swafford almost evened things up.
Brandon Crews’ trey a minute later gave the Mustangs a two-point lead, effectively ending the Raiders’ lead for the what would be the remainder of the game.
The first quarter ended with both teams tied 13-all.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, the second quarter would prove a struggle offensively, as Walker Valley was able to outscore the Raiders 20-9.
The Mustangs’ leading scorers Lukas Korn and Bryce Nunnelly sprang to life, netting six and seven points respectively in the final eight minutes of the first half.
At the half Walker Valley had an 11-point lead over Cleveland.
“Walker Valley put pressure on us, which got us out of our game,” McCowan explained.
Korn’s dominance of the boards carried over into the start of the second half, in which he was able to net 14 of Walker Valley’s 25 points in the third quarter.
“Lukas did a great job on the boards, and we outrebounded Cleveland, which is huge in a game like this with the shooters that they have. I thought we did a great job on offensive and defensive rebounding,” Williams stated.
The Raiders were able to double their output in the third, with TyQwon Ware, Colby Tatum and Anfernee Scott securing a majority of their team’s 18 points scored in the quarter.
According to McCowan, trailing 58-40 at the start of the fourth put his team in a hole it was just incapable of climbing out of.
“It’s hard to win district games on the road when you’re that far down. We just do not have room for a big margin for error, and our margin of error was very large tonight,” McCowan commented. “We can’t afford to make those mistakes, because a team like Walker Valley is going to make you pay for those. That’s a good Walker Valley team and I don’t think we were as focused as we could have been.”
Led by Kendrick Thompson, who scored 14 of his 25 game points in the final quarter, the Raiders were able to outscore the Mustangs 26-24 in the last eight minutes of play.
Cleveland chipped away at Walker Valley’s 18 point lead in the fourth, cutting the deficit to 10 points at one time.
Consistent shooting by the Mustangs solidified the win in front of a thunderous home crowd.
Korn finished the night with a total of 24 points, Nunnelly racked up 18 points of his own and Swafford had 11 points.
Walker Valley had a total of 41 rebounds, while Cleveland had 22 rebounds in the game.
Thompson led the Raiders with 25 points and TyQwon Ware notched 12 points in the loss.
“We have shown everyone what we’re capable of doing, but it’s all for nothing if we don’t keep going,” Williams said.
With the regular season in the books, both teams must now focus on the District 5-AAA tournament.
Number 3 seed Cleveland will face East Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, while No. 4 seed Walker Valley takes on Soddy-Daisy at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
“The regular season is over and it’s up for grabs. This district is strong from top to bottom, so you have to come ready to play,” Williams declared.
LADY MUSTANGS 42,
LADY RAIDERS 24
After a fierce Jan. 7 meeting between the Lady Mustangs (17-10, 9-3) and Lady Raiders (12-12, 6-6) that resulted in a tight, 59-54 win for Walker Valley, the outcome of Monday night’s game was highly unexpected.
While the Lady Raiders were able to take the first quarter 9-6, their struggles to shoot the ball haunted them for the remainder of the game.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Cleveland head coach Mindy Kiser stated. “We couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Layup after layup bounced off and missed, and we only hit five free throws.”
Walker Valley saw its fair share of struggles on the offensive side of things, but in the end was still able to come away with the win.
“We started out real slow. We only hit four 3’s, went 10-for-17 at the free-throw line and were shooting 30-percent from 2,” Lady Mustang head coach Jessica Stone said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but what makes me happy is that we were still able to win despite that.”
In the second quarter the Lady Mustangs were able to outscore the Lady Raiders 14-4 thanks to a well-timed 3-pointer by Peyton Davis as well as the efforts of leading scorers Victoria Jones and Jacklyn Griffith.
Cleveland found itself in foul trouble in the first half which, according to Kiser, worked against any momentum it tried to build.
“It’s really hard to get anything going, especially early on, when the foul count is so different,” Kiser commented. “It takes away your aggressiveness on the defensive end and any fluid movement on the offensive end.”
Things only got worse for the Lady Raiders and better for the Lady Mustangs in the second half.
A free throw from Amber Morman and Bre Ware accounted for the only two points scored by Cleveland in the third quarter, while a pair of treys by Jones and pair of 2-point buckets by Lyndsey Macon added 10 more points to Walker Valley’s score.
With a 15 point lead over their cross-county rivals, the Lady Mustangs were able to add 12 more points in the fourth, while the Lady Raiders added nine.
For Stone, the win was the product of a strong team effort.
“Jack (Jacklyn Griffith) had 14 rebounds and 11 points, Vic (Victoria Jones) had 16 points and five rebounds, Lyndsey Macon had five assists and two big steals. Kat was big when we needed her to be big down the stretch. DJ (Mowery) is just solid, strong and was grabbing rebounds,” Stone explained. “I’m proud of them and I hope this is momentum going into the district tournament.”
Jones led the Lady Mustangs with 16 points, while Griffith finished with 11 points.
Nora Berry notched 10 points for the Lady Raiders.
The No. 3-seed Lady Mustangs take on Soddy-Daisy Thursday at 6 p.m., while the No. 4-seed Lady Raiders will battle Ooltewah at 6 p.m. Friday.
Cleveland 9 4 2 9 — 24
Walker Valley 6 14 10 12 — 42
LADY RAIDERS (24) — Nora Berry 10, Scoggins 5, Morman 5, Ware 3, McClendon 1, Buckner, Borton, Crump, Walkup, Phillips, Person.
LADY MUSTANGS (42) — Victoria Jones 16, Jaclyn Griffith 11, P. Davis 5, Macon 4, Davis 2, Alomar 2, Mowery 2, Percy, Patel, Cox, Spann, Lay, White, C. Davis.
3-POINTERS: WV 4 (Jones 3, P. Davis); C 3 (Berry 2, Scoggins).
FREE THROWS: WV 10-of-17; C 5-of-12.
RECORDS: Walker Valley 17-10, 9-3 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 12-12, 6-6 District 5-AAA.
Cleveland 13 9 18 26 — 66
Walker Valley 13 20 25 24 — 82
RAIDERS (66) — Kendrick Thompson 25, TyQwon Ware 12, Scott 7, Gibson 6, C. Ware 4, Dennard 4, Brown 3, Tatum 3, K. Ware 2, Beaty, Bracero, Munoz, Goode, McRee, Vecchio.
MUSTANGS (82) — Lukas Korn 24, Bryce Nunnelly 18, Dustin Swafford 11, Crews 9, Herd 7, Williams 4, Harwood 4, L. Melton 3, Jones 2, Morrow, Hunt, C. Melton, Conway.
3-POINTERS: WV 4 (Crews 3, Herd); C 8 (Thompson 2, T. Ware, C. Ware, Tatum, Scott, Brown).
FREE THROWS: WV 24-of-35; C 16-of-27.
RECORDS: Walker Valley 18-9, 7-5 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 15-7, 8-4 District 5-AAA.