By PATRICK MacCOON
Facing top-of-the-line competition is something the Cleveland Blue Raider do not shy away from. Instead, they see it as a challenge to embrace.While junior Dionte Ware dropped 21 points and 12 …
Facing top-of-the-line competition is something the Cleveland Blue Raider do not shy away from. Instead, they see it as a challenge to embrace.
While junior Dionte Ware dropped 21 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double to begin the season, the Blue Raiders could not hold off a red-hot finish by Bearden, which improved to 11-0 with its 63-60 victory at Raider Arena Monday night.
A late 3-pointer by Alex ‘Paco’ Patterson to take the lead was waved off due to an offensive foul, and the Bulldogs' defense held strong soon after, picking off a last pass at the final buzzer.
“We played good enough to win the basketball game,” CHS head coach Jason McCowan said. “We gave ourselves multiple chances to do that against a really good basketball team. Hopefully we will grow and get better from it, but effort-wise, you can’t ask anything more out of our guys.”
After running away with a 24-point win over East Hamilton to begin District 5-AAA play in Raider Arena last Friday, Cleveland (2-2) looked well on its way to perhaps topping another opponent who made the state tournament last season.
A year ago McCowan's team even took down 2016 state champion Fulton on the road.
Regarded as perhaps the top prep basketball team in Knoxville by many, a Bearden Bulldogs team averaging 82.3 points and only allowing 47.7 per game through its first 10 outings was slowed down at the start.
With a heavy, guard-based starting five, which includes possible college prospect Ware, Cleveland’s in-your-face defense halted its opponent’s fast tempo.
The Bulldogs, whose attack has poured out 107 and 92-point outings this season, only scored six points in the first quarter.
While a tough stretch to begin the season from 3-point range seemed to continue with five straight misfires from long range to begin the night, the Blue Raiders did not lose faith in their shot.
Patterson knocked down his second 3-pointer of the first half to take a 29-18 lead with 1:17 left before the break.
Ware sunk another trey and his second of the quarter just nine seconds later to give CHS its second lead of 14 points.
After a sluggish start from behind the arc, a quick 7-of-14 rally from distance gave the home team a double-digit lead over a team whose closest game this season had previously come in a 16-point win over Riverdale.
Junior transfer guard Isaiah Johnson’s picture-perfect floater at the halftime buzzer found the bottom of the net to give the Blue Raiders a 34-23 lead.
Johnson scored seven of his 13 points in the first half, in which the Blue Raiders had 10 offensive rebounds.
“We can create mismatches offensively because we are quick all over,” McCowan said. “Isaiah made some great decisions and we did a good job at finishing at the rim, too. He brought some good energy to us, no question.”
Yet to trail since the 3:30 mark of the first quarter, Ware knocked down a 28-footer a few steps in from the halfcourt logo to maintain the lead at 48-41 with seven minutes left to play.
Ware made a season-high three shots from 3-point land.
“It was good to get Dionte rolling from three,” McCowan said. “He hadn’t made a 3-pointer this season yet. I think he will only go uphill and keep improving. The game should start to come a little easier for him now.”
However, after a scoreless first quarter, a hungry Ques Glover began to take over for Bearden.
Back-to-back steals by Glover and Trent Stephney led to layups to cut the Bulldogs deficit to 52-51 with four minutes left to play.
On his way to a 27-point outing and an 11-point fourth quarter, Glover drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 59-56 lead with 2:45 left.
He would go on to score his team’s final seven points.
“They are contested jump shooters and we saw that from their film last season,” McCowan said. “They are a tough bunch and you have to have a lot of things go right to beat them. No one has so far this season.”
The Blue Raiders appeared to take the lead with 36 seconds left as Patterson’s left-corner 3-pointer was true to form, but was negated by an offensive foul.
“We watched on film that No. 24 helps hard, ball-side,” McCowan said. “We got the look that we wanted, but just went a step too far. We just have to continue to sharpen up some things in our late-game possessions and looks. You can tell we are a little early seasoned in some of those things. We have to keep working and give ourselves a chance like we did tonight.”
While Cleveland’s losses this season have both been in games decided by the final possession, a chance to get back on track with another big district win presents itself on the road tonight.
“When you schedule Bearden and then go to Walker Valley right behind them, that’s two tough games,” McCowan said. “They are both well coached. This is a tough loss because we put forth a lot of energy. This next game is very important. We have to come out with great effort.”
LADY BULLDOGS 54, LADY RAIDERS 38
Cleveland struggled to find an offensive groove against an opponent with great length down low.
The Lady Raiders scored 10 points or less in three quarters and did not have anyone score in double digits.
Emma Flowers finished with a team-high eight points and eight rebounds, while Braylee Franklin made a pair of 3-pointers and had three assists.
CHS is now 2-5 on the season and will enter a district showdown against Walker Valley (3-2) tonight at 6.
BULLDGOS (63): Ques Glover 27, Trent Stephney 12, Pember 8, Brown 6, Robinson 5, Kah 4, Ketterl 1
BLUE RAIDERS (60): Dionte Ware 21, Isaiah Johnson 13, Davis 8, Patterson 6, Bradford 6, Wood 4, Wykle 2, Howard, Black
3-pointers: Bearden 7 (Glover 3, Pember 2, Stephney, Robinson); CHS 8 (Ware 3, Davis 2, Patterson 2, Johnson)
Free Throws: Bearden 8-of-18; CHS 12-of-19
Records: Bearden 11-0; CHS 2-2.
LADY BULLDOGS (54): Trinity Lee 14, Jakhyia Davis 11, Rij 9, Spikes 6, McLaughlin 5, Hall 4, Stone 3, McLaughlin 2.
LADY RAIDERS (38): Flowers 8, Franklin 6, Williams 6, Douglass 4, Reed 3, Dasher 3, Rouse 3, Anderson 3, Langford 2, Goodman, Person, Callahan, Droke, Alvardo.
3-pointers: Bearden 3 (Lee, Stone, Rij); CHS 5 (Franklin 2, Reed, Williams, Dasher.
Free Throws: Bearden 15-23. CHS 7-14
Records: Bearden 7-3. Cleveland 2-5.
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