Cleveland High head coach Jason McCowan has been to Jim Smiddy Arena enough times to know that any lead isn't secure until the final buzzer.Monday was no exception.His fifth-ranked Blue Raiders were …
Cleveland High head coach Jason McCowan has been to Jim Smiddy Arena enough times to know that any lead isn't secure until the final buzzer.
Monday was no exception.
His fifth-ranked Blue Raiders were up 24 points with 90 seconds left in the opening half but Bradley Central trimmed that deficit to just 16 at the intermission.
The Bears kept clawing away in the second half, pulling within seven points three times in the final frame.
Despite a pair of key "Boys in Blue" having fouled out, Cleveland was able to net seven points of the night's final nine points to hold on for a 71-60 victory over their archrivals.
"In this kind of game, against them, no lead is comfortable," remarked Coach McCowan.
"I've always told (former Bear head coach) Kent Smith and (current Bradley head coach) Chuck (Clark) that I don't know what a comfortable lead in a rivalry game on the road would be.
"I've been here too many times, so I know that they are going to keep coming at you."
"We didn't quit. We still made some 'young' mistakes, but we kept playing hard," Coach Clark commented. "We showed we're not the same team as we were right after Christmas (when they lost by 20 points at Raider Arena).
"They (Cleveland) came out hot and hit almost 70 percent (7-of-11 on two-pointers and 8-for-11 on 3s) in the first half, but we were able to start getting some stops in the second half and get back in it."
Sophomore Grant Hurst sizzled the nylon on his first five long-range bombs to lead the Raiders to a 24-10 advantage at the first period buzzer.
"Grant puts a ton of time at what he does. He's a '6 a.m. kid' that puts his time in in the gym. He shoots lot of extra shots," McCowan praised.
"This is a hard place to play and for him to be able to do that right in front of their (Bradley's) student section really says a lot about his composure. He's a tough kid. That was all reps and mental toughness paying off."
The Raiders stayed red hot in the second frame, missing just one shot from the field in the first 5 1/2 minutes with Hurst capping a 16-6 run with his sixth triple of the evening.
With his team down 24 points, Coach Clark called a time out to try to cool the visitors off and it worked.
Cleveland (23-4, 10-2 District 5-AAA) didn't score again the rest of the half, while the Bears were able to drop in eight points, including a rebound and coast-to-coast fast break bucket by sophomore Tray Curry in the final seven seconds.
Although he was fouled on the play, Curry's free throw caught iron and bounced away, but senior CJ Wesley alertly snagged the offensive rebound and put the ball back through the hoop as the buzzer sounded to slice the difference to 40-24 at the break.
"We had the ball up 20 with seven seconds to go (before the half). At worst , we go in at half up 20, but we shot too soon, got fouled and missed the free throw. They get the ball back down the court quickly and not only get the basket, but get fouled as well. They missed the free throw, but then get the offensive rebound and put if back in at the buzzer so we're only up 16," related Coach McCowan.
Bradley (16-9, 6-6) continued cut the deficit by netting 13 of the first 19 second half points to pull within single digits, but the Raiders finished the frame strong and pushed their edge back out to 52-41 at the third break.
The Bears opened the final frame with an old-fashioned three-point play by junior Saylor Clark, and when freshman Quante Berry drove the lane a moment later the difference was seven points with seven minutes to go.
Even though senior Isaiah Johnson, who pumped in a dozen points, fouled out with 6:30 remaining, Cleveland went on a 6-0 spurt, stretching the lead back to 13.
After Berry and Hurst traded baskets, Bradley junior Ashton Boyd sandwiched a pair of 3-balls around a Raider charging foul on Wood, which sent him to the bench with his 11 points at the 3:49 mark.
The final time the Bears pulled within seven points came when Saylor Clark drained a 20-footer from the side of the key with 2:20 on the clock, but the visitors then bowed their backs to seal the victory at the free throw line.
"We didn't panic in the fourth quarter with Isaiah (Johnson) and JaCobi (Wood) on the bench. Grant (Hurst) kept us calm with the ball in his hands and we got some good stops," commented Coach McCowan. "Darius Howard doesn't get a lot of credit because what he does defensively and rebounding doesn't get in the scorebook, but he made some big plays."
Hurst finished with a game-high 28 points, scoring 15 in the opening quarter and nine in the final period. He also cleared seven rebounds, copped four steals and dished off a pair of assists.
Fellow sophomore Kley McGowan collected a half dozen points and five caroms.
Cleveland finished having hit 14-of-23 shots (61 percent) in front of the arc and a blistering 9-for-15 (60 percent) beyond it.
"We're going to learn from this. We shot great in the first half, but were weren't as patient in the second half," McCowan stated.
Bradley had a strong night close in, making 53 percent (20-of-38) from two-point land, but were just 3-for-11 (27 percent) from distance.
The Bears won the backboard battle 28-21, but lost the turnover total 23-19.
Four Bears netted double figures with Berry tallying a dozen and handing out four "dimes."
Curry, Saylor Clark and sophomore Mason Rothwell each added 10 points. Curry also cleared eight caroms, while Rothwell pulled down four ricochets and blocked a pair of shots.
The loss drops Bradley into the No. 5 seed for the District 5-AAA Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Soddy-Daisy.
The Bears actually tied fourth-seeded Ooltewah (15-13, 6-6), which they split with during the season but lost a coin flip to, as the teams will square off Friday evening at 7:30. The winner gets top-seeded East Hamilton (22-7, 11-1) in Saturday evening's semifinal at 4:30.
"We've got a tough draw. Ooltewah beat us by one down there and we beat them by 12 up here, but on a neutral floor, you never know," assessed Coach Clark. "It's a win-or-go-home game, so we better be ready to play."
With a spot in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. semis already secured as the No. 2 seed, Cleveland will await the survivor of third-seeded Walker Valley (20-6, 7-5), McMinn County (12-17, 2-10) and Soddy-Daisy (3-22, 0-12). The sixth-seeded Cherokees and No. 7 Trojans will play Wednesday evening with the victor advancing to face the Mustangs Thursday at 7:30.
"We'll get ready for whoever we face," commented McCowan. "If it's Walker Valley, they beat us once, but we were able to pay them back. We'll just have to be ready and play our game."
at Jim Smiddy Arena
Cleveland24161219 — 71
Bradley Central10141719 — 60
BLUE RAIDERS (71) - Grant Hurst 28, Isaiah Johnson 12, JaCobi Wood 11, Kley McGowan 6, Michael Dale 6, Darius Howard 5, Alex Williams 3, Kaleb Bunton, Logan Colbaugh, Nye Armstrong, James Hall.
BEARS (60) – Quante Berry 12, Tray Curry 10, Mason Rothwell 10, Saylor Clark 10, Tyler Ferguson 8, Ashton Boyd 6, CJ Wesley 2, Ricky McCleary 2, Aiden McClary, Tucker Greene.
3-Pointers: CHS 9 (Hurst 6, Johnson 2, McGowan); BC 3 (Boyd 2, Clark).
Free throws: CHS 16-of-27; BC 11-of-16.
RECORDS: No. 5-ranked Cleveland 23-4, 10-2 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 16-9, 6-6 District 5-AAA.
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