Editor's note: Due to an early holiday deadline, the results of Wednesday evening's tournament championship games will be in Friday's edition of the Banner.DALTON, Ga. — Cleveland High School's …
Editor's note: Due to an early holiday deadline, the results of Wednesday evening's tournament championship games will be in Friday's edition of the Banner.
DALTON, Ga. — Cleveland High School's varsity basketball teams are cooking in the Peach State, as each stands one win away from a Thanksgiving tournament title.
A defensive lockdown continued for the Blue Raiders, who have earned shortened fourth quarters against both Cass and Morristown-East, thanks to 30-point leads.
From guarding inbounds with intensity to playing tight man-to-man defense, energy has spread for a dangerous team thought by many to be one of the most talented in East Tennessee.
"One of our core values is the word contagious," CHS head coach Jason McCowan said. "We want good things to be contagious. We want it to be a staple. If we are going to be hard to beat, everybody needs to bring their best. On the court, in the locker room, in the classroom, wherever we go."
In a matchup of two defending district champions from last season, the Blue Raiders overwhelmed Morristown-East 72-40 Tuesday night by creating turnovers along with a steady offensive burst.
CHS will face Tennessee High (Bristol) for the boys title at 8:30 tonight at Dalton High School.
Junior guard Isaiah Johnson scored eight points in a 38-second span in the first quarter, which was started by an offensive rebound tip out to the left corner by Kley McGowan.
A scorching start put Cleveland ahead 19-2 just over four minutes in.
Johnson scored 10 of his 18 points in a 28-point first quarter in which he also displayed his quick burst to the hoop and finesse with a soft touch on a driving left-handed layup high off the glass.
Junior point guard Jacobi Wood also scored eight of his team-high 19 points in the first quarter as his intensity spread to his teammates on both sides of the ball.
"The challenge for us is to continue to stay unselfish," Coach McCowan said. "Our leading scorer any given night could be Jacobi, Isaiah, Dionte Ware or Grant Hurst. We have very consistent scorers. Our offense has to be patient and execute."
Wood has led the team in scoring the past two games, with 49 combined points to go with nine steals, 10 assists and five 3-pointers, despite playing barely any of the fourth quarter in either contest.
A major spark provided by Wood and Johnson was followed by 1,000-point scorer Dionte Ware, who drained three of his team's eight long-range makes and finished with 17 points.
Hurst provided all 10 of his points in the first half with two triples, one of which he knocked down despite being knocked to the floor.
Senior Logan Colbaugh and the bench did not skip a beat, as he dove for a loose ball to help force a steal and an easy unguarded layup for Johnson to force their opponent into a timeout as CHS ran away to a 37-12 lead with 5:17 left before the half.
"Our guys have come in and had some great film sessions and it's starting to show on the floor," McCowan said. "We are trying to develop really good habits so we can come out like this every night. When Logan, Darius (Howard) and Jared (Lay) come in they know to bring great energy."
From taking on the two of the state's best from Division II-A to start the season in Knox Webb and the Webb School, the Blue Raiders (3-1) have flashed power over three straight victories.
Ware scored 10 points in the third quarter to help build an overwhelming 64-31 lead entering the final and shortened six-minute quarter in which the starters rested for the championship game.
The Tennessee Vikings are 6-0 to start the season and beat Chattooga, 64-37, Tuesday night.
McCowan hopes his team can once again come out to a scorching start and bring back a championship to begin a joyful Thanksgiving.
"Being able to represent a great school, great kids, a great staff and great community is something I am thankful for," said the 12th-year head coach. "It's an honor to put the Blue on and represent the town in a positive way. Hopefully, we can build even more confidence with another win tomorrow."
LADY RAIDERS 77
Advancing to the championship game at Northwest Whitfield (Ga.) HS, Cleveland will go against a familiar face Wednesday when it tips off at 8:15 against Bob Williams' home squad.
Sophomore Kara Williams keyed a fiery offensive attack for the Lady Raiders with a game-high 21 points and five makes beyond the arc.
Consistency was shown throughout as open shots were knocked down, especially in a 27-point third quarter. And explosion which took an eight-point lead to a 63-35 advantage for CHS.
"This is a step in the right direction as our offensive chemistry continues to grow," Lady Raider head coach Tony Williams said. "We had a lot of kids contribute tonight. When people are making positive contributions, it makes for a great team environment."
Senior Madison Dasher tailed 13 points, while sophomores Mariyah Person and Joy Douglass added 12 and 10, respectively.
Another second-year player in Brenna Droke added eight along with six points from Emily Rominger.
Ready to take on NW Whitfield for the championship title, CHS has great respect for a former longtime Walker Valley boys head coach.
"Coach (Bob) Williams is a great coach and a good friend of mine," CHS's Tony Williams said. "We will have to continue and play well to give ourselves an opportunity to win this title. Our kids have worked hard for this moment."
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE