By PATRICK MacCOON
Part of the battle for a talented team is having strong camaraderie both on and off the court.In celebration of not only finishing out a perfect regular season in District 5-AAA, senior point guard …
Part of the battle for a talented team is having strong camaraderie both on and off the court.
In celebration of not only finishing out a perfect regular season in District 5-AAA, senior point guard Mullek Bradford cartwheeled his way off the floor and finished with a backflip to celebrate a teammate’s 18th birthday as well.
Cleveland’s floor general put forth a season-high 18 points and dished out 10 assists, while Dionte Ware enjoyed his birthday celebration with a game-high 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a 83-65 road victory over East Hamilton Thursday night.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with these guys and leading the offense,” said Bradford, who had 13 points and 12 assists last season at EHS. “We all really get along great and did not want to lose a district game this season. Dionte and the guys really make it easy for me.”
Bradford picked up several no-look assists and also hit two of the fifth-ranked Blue Raiders 10 3-pointers. He also helped hold district MVP Justin Dozier to four points.
“Jason Williams is my favorite point guard of all-time and I really like watching him,” added Bradford, has 230 assists over the past two seasons. “Assists don’t really get all that much recognition sometimes, but we have to make good passes and wear a team down.”
Cleveland (20-3, 12-0) is 23-1 over the past two district regular seasons and has now scored 263 points over its last three games.
A red-hot offense has taken off since a cold night against Bradley Central.
“Last season we missed out on a perfect regular season by one [game] and the guys wanted to change that tonight and also get their 20th win,” CHS head coach Jason McCowan said. “I am really proud of this group. They are sharing the basketball, taking the right shots and putting in a lot of hard work.”
This is the first undefeated district regular season for the Blue Raiders since 2009-10 when they went 26-5 and lost in the sectionals against Columbia.
Senior Deontae Davis continued his hot streak with 17 points and three 3-pointers for the third consecutive game.
Bradford found the 3-point sniper on the top right, as Davis pump-faked and stepped to his right to hit from deep for a 52-35 lead with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
Ware hit a pair of 3-pointers off Bradford assists in the second half from 25-feet out from the top left.
The junior standout scored 13 points in the second half to continue his breakout season, as Ware is averaging 19 points per game to go with 9.4 rebounds and shooting above 50 percent.
“Dionte is becoming a phenomenal all-around player,” McCowan said. “He does a lot for us to make the offense easier. I wish he could have been our district MVP, but we can’t vote for our own players. Justin Dozier is a great player as well though. I am really excited though that we had five kids make all-district.”
Romeo Wykle, Jacobi Wood, Davis, Bradford and Ware all received the regular season honors.
With a region tournament berth already locked, the Blue Raiders are excited for its second state-ranked battle with No. 2 Bearden Monday on the road.
Cleveland fell to the Bulldogs, 63-60, back on Dec. 4. Its only other two losses coming to Gate City (82-72), home to a national star in Mac McClung, and to Hardin Valley (64-63) in overtime.
“We want to keep battling and give ourselves momentum for the postseason,” Ware said. “We want to make it to state this year. I really enjoy playing with my teammates. I enjoyed my cookie cake with them after the game.”
Cleveland;23;17;23;20 — 83
East Hamilton;17;13;17;18 — 65
BLUE RAIDERS (83): Dionte Ware 24, Mullek Bradford 18, Deontae Davis 17, Jacobi Wood 10, Black 4, Wykle 4, Patterson 3, Johnson 3, Colbaugh, Burke, McGowan, Howard, Lay, Hurst.
HURRICANES (65): Cameron Montgomery 14, Andrew Williams 14, DaVae Hughley 12, Morrell Schramm 10, Sam Randolph 8, Dozier 4, Randolph 3.
3-Pointers: CHS 10 (Davis 3, Bradford 2, Ware 2, Paco, Johnson, Wood); EH 6 (Montgomery 2, Schramm 2 Hughley, Randolph)
Free Throws: CHS 7-of-9; EH 5-of-6
Records: Cleveland 20-3, 12-0; East Hamilton 19-6, 7-3.
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