PIGEON FORGE — Getting their toughest test of the young season, Cleveland High's boys basketball defeated fellow 2019 TSSAA State Tournament participant Sevier County Friday evening at the Pigeon Forge Thanksgiving Classic.
The Runnin' Raiders improved to 4-0 with a narrow 57-54 victory over the Smoky Bears.
"Starting off slow tonight, we were down 11 at half," explained first-year head coach Reggie Tucker. "We made some solid adjustments at the half and held them to 12 points in the third (period) and seven in the fourth.
"Our team defense was much better second half and we protected the 3-point line," he added.
As in the other three victories, the same trio led the way, but in a different order.
While Belmont signee JaCobi Wood had been the top scoring in each of the previous contests, his 14 points Friday were surpassed by teammate Morrell Schramm's double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"Morrell played well on both ends of the floor," praised Tucker of the East Hamilton transfer's performance.
Juniors Grant Hurst and Kley McGowan helped out with 13 and six points respectively.
"This is the third state tournament team we have played and our guys have responded well to each challenge," Coach Tucker remarked. "We still need to clean a few things up, but I'm proud of our effort, toughness and attitude."
Cleveland faced yet another 2019 state tournament opponent after presstime Saturday, taking on Brainerd.
The Lady Raiders and Runnin' Raiders will hold their home opener Tuesday as Maryville comes to town.
The Lady Rebels (2-1) defeated the Cleveland girls 72-56 in a Hall of Champions games on Nov. 23.
Coming off a strong championship run at the Border Wars Tournament in Tunnel Hill, Ga., earlier this week, the Lady Raiders (4-2) will be looking for revenge for one of their losses.
The Maryville boys (3-1) have a trio of impressive wins, with their lone loss coming by a single point to Greeneville in a Hall of Champions contest.
Cleveland will open District 5-AAA play on Friday when McMinn County (3-1 boys, 1-3 girls) comes to the Raider Arena.