2 col subhead under main head:Cleveland captures: Dalton crownDALTON, Ga. — Senior leader Dionte Ware held the Thanksgiving championship trophy as he walked out of Dalton High School confident …
DALTON, Ga. — Senior leader Dionte Ware held the Thanksgiving championship trophy as he walked out of Dalton High School confident in the group around him.
Cleveland carved its way into Thanksgiving with a stellar showing on the hardcourts in Georgia by outscoring the competition 209-131 in three games.
"Nobody is selfish," [on the CHS squad] said the 6-foot-5, 1,000-point career scorer Ware after finishing with 19 points in a 64-46 championship win over (Bristol) Tennessee High Wednesday night. "We are just trying to win together and make it to Murfreesboro. We have a lot of scorers and we are really working on defense, communication along with building a family."
Tenacity was showed on the defensive end throughout the Blue Raiders' time in the Peach State. They led by 30 points twice, and 20 points after three quarters.
Junior point guard Jacobi Wood flashed elite defense with 14 steals in three games, while he also scored 69 points to go with 16 assists. The rising star finished with 20 points and put the clamps down with six steals against Tennessee High.
"Jacobi has been consistent with his scoring, but most importantly he has been a really good floor general," CHS head coach Jason McCowan said. "He is able to run the team and be one of the best defenders out there. He has done a great job keeping us under control and balanced. He's a leader and tough to handle."
Other point guards stood no chance on countless occasions as Wood stepped up to meet them at half court and rip them for a steal and score throughout the holiday tournament.
Wood's energy has been contagious so far for a group who has now won four straight games after falling in its season opener to a talented Knox Webb team. Senior CHS guard Isaiah Johnson didn't play much in the 72-59 loss.
While the offense did not flow as much against Tennessee High as it did against Cass and Morristown-East, a new addition to the trophy case is warmly welcomed.
"It was a little bit of a sloppy win, but we will take it and learn from it," Coach McCowan said. "We played a lot of young guys this week which was good for us. We are growing and trying to mature. I am glad we played a team that could give us some hard looks."
The loss for Tennessee High was their first of the season.
Sophomores Kley McGowan and Grant Hurst stepped up to make some big defensive plays, as they grow and have been challenged by their senior class.
"We push them every day to get better," Ware said. "We play against them in practice like we would any other team in a game. So therefore when they get in the game it comes a little easier. Constant communication for us is key."
Ware scored nine points in the third quarter to help turn an eight point lead to a 53-33 lead after two quarters.
McGowan sunk a corner three in the third quarter and provided constant hustle throughout.
The Blue Raiders allowed the first six points of the title bout, but ended the first quarter with Johnson shielding Wood for a trey then hitting a left corner three himself at the buzzer for a 20-12 lead.
Cleveland never looked back as they walked away by signing their name to the championship bracket.
"There are plenty more where this came from," Ware said, looking down at the trophy. "We want to fill up the trophy case."
The Blue Raiders will face a foe who kicked them out of the postseason at the start of the region tournament last season in Cookeville at Raider Arena next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
The repeat District 5-AAA champions will open league play Friday at home against East Hamilton.
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