Following their mixed results against Walker Valley Tuesday night, both Cleveland hoops squads were able to overpower the visiting McMinn County squads Friday night at Cleveland Middle School.
The Lady Raiders (8-6, 3-2) got things started with their 48-42 victory over the Lady Cherokees (3-13, 3-2), and the Raiders (7-5, 3-2) completed the sweep of the District 5-AAA opponents with their 69-51 win over the Cherokees (1-14, 0-5).
Cleveland head coach Jason McCowan has a lot to be pleased about lately, but the fact that his team is stepping up and taking some of the pressure off high-scoring Kendrick Thompson is giving him plenty of reasons to smile.
While Thompson led the Raiders in scoring with 23 points Friday night, players like Cantrel Ware and Jake Gibson were able to help lead the charge down the court.
“We’ve been wanting that other guy besides Kendrick to step up and make it easier on the rest of the guys, and we got that from a lot of guys tonight. Jake Gibson shot it really well tonight,” McCowan said.
Cantrel Ware chipped in 13 points, while Gibson hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the first quarter and his third trey of the game in the second quarter for his nine points of the game.
Cleveland jumped out ahead of McMinn early, finishing the first quarter with a 17-8 lead.
The intensity remained turned up by the Raiders in the second quarter, and after adding 20 more points to the scoreboard, led the Tribe 37-22 at the half.
“They are all starting to get used to their roles. Now if we can get the big guys to make a bit more layups we’ll be doing well. Other than that, defensively we are playing really well right now,” McCowan stated.
The Tribe was unable to slow down the Raiders’ scoring in the third quarter, which featured eight points by Thompson and both Cantrel Ware and Mason Brown hitting 3-point shots.
Despite being outscored by McMinn 17-14 in the final quarter, Cleveland was still able to finish the game 18 points in the black.
“I like where we are at right now. We’re playing hard and winning,” McCowan declared.
The Raiders hit nine 3-point field goals Friday night, which came from five different players. Gibson had three, both Thompson and Cantrel Ware had two, and TyQwon Ware and Brown each had one.
Cleveland went 10-for-13 at the free-throw line, while McMinn was 9-for-11.
LADY RAIDERS 48
LADY CHEROKEES 42
The Lady Raiders have had little time to catch their breath since the start of the new year. Including their win over the Lady Cherokees, the last four games have been split 2-2.
Also split is the bench, as injuries have taken their toll on the girls in blue.
“Our last four games we’ve only had about seven people playing due to injuries,” Cleveland head coach Mindy Kiser said. “I think our legs are feeling it a little bit. We’re just a bit beat up and worn down but that’s just apart of it and to be expected.”
While the Lady Raiders found themselves starting out slower than they would’ve liked to, the end result left little room for complaints.
McMinn County came in with a misleading 3-12 overall record, but were 3-1 in District 5-AAA hoops.
Cleveland found themselves tied 9-all after the first quarter, with Nora Berry leading the Lady Raiders with seven points and McMinn’s Keke Smith also netting seven points.
The Lady Cherokees got a three point boost over the Lady Raiders to go into the half up 18-15.
Cleveland recovered from their three point deficit in the third quarter, and went into the fourth quarter tied up 24-all.
“Before the game we talked about staying at it no matter what. We felt that if we played hard and played through that we would be ok,” Kiser explained. “I told them that I wasn’t going to bail them out with time outs. They’ve played enough minutes in their careers to stretch it out and figure things out on their own and they did that. We made some really good shots and had a good run as well as made some excellent defense stops. Those propelled us forward.”
Things heated up in the final eight minutes of play, as both teams amped up their offensive efforts.
Berry came up with 16 big points for the Lady Raiders, who thanks to help from Bre Ware, Sofia Stamatiadis and Hallea McClendon, were able to add a total of 24 points to the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
McMinn finished with 18 more points of their own, but Cleveland was still able to come out six points on top of their district opponent.
Out of their 48 points, 28 came from Berry who hit three treys, six 2-point field goals and was 7-for-8 at the charity stripe.
Ware had 13 rebounds, while McClendon had a total of eight rebounds, five of which were offensive rebounds. The Lady Raiders as a whole hit 15-of-19 free-throws.
Cleveland will keep their district play going as they travel to Ooltewah on Tuesday.
McMinn County 9 9 6 18 — 42
Cleveland 9 6 9 24 — 48
LADY CHEROKEES (42) — Keke Smith 13, Rachel Burke 13, Wilson 6, Robinson 4, Simbeck 4, Harper, Cornett, Gaines, Maddron, Kelley, Montgomery, Thompson, Sliger, Bryant.
LADY RAIDERS (48) — Nora Berry 28, McClendon 9, Ware 5, Stamatiadis 4, Scoggins 4, Lee, Borton, Crump, Walkup, Phillips.
3-POINTERS: MC 2 ( Wilson, Smith); CHS 3 (Berry 3).
FREE THROWS: MC 6-of-10; CHS 15-19.
RECORDS: McMinn County 3-13, 3-2 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 8-6, 3-2 District 5-AAA.
McMinn County 8 14 14 17 — 51
Cleveland 17 20 18 14 — 69
CHEROKEES (51) — Brian Armstrong 13, Jaylon Martin 10, Edgemon 8, Marshall 5, Spalding 5, Hammonds 4, Saxton 2, Lawson 2, Collins 2, Brown, Cruze, Jones, Hockman, Simpson.
RAIDERS (69) — Kendrick Thompson 23, Cantrel Ware 13, Gibson 9, T. Ware 5, Brown 5, Tatum 4, Beaty 4, Scott 2, Vecchio 2, Dennard 2, Bracero, Munoz, Oliver, McRee.
3-POINTERS: MC 2 (Marshall, Armstrong); CHS 9 (Gibson 3, Thompson 2, C. Ware 2, T. Ware).
FREE THROWS: MC 9-of-11; CHS 10-of-13.
RECORDS: McMinn County 1-14, 0-5 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 7-5, 3-2 District 5-AAA.