Getting beat twice by third-ranked Walker Valley during the regular season, the fourth-seeded Cleveland Lady Raiders stunned the top-seeded Lady Mustangs 48-40 in Saturday’s semifinals to earn a shot at the title.
After a close opening period, second-seeded Bradley Central ran away with the other semifinal contest with a 74-42 mauling of McMinn County to claim the other spot in Monday night’s championship game.
Walker Valley will face McMinn County at 6 Monday in the consolation contest before the title will be determined in a 7:30 tipoff.
All four teams advance to the Region 3-AAA Tournament later this week with the Bearettes and Lady Raiders hosting opening round games, while the Lady Mustangs and Lady Cherokees will be hitting the road to face the District 6-AAA champ and runner-up.
Lady Raiders 48
Lady Mustangs 40
After coming within three points of a victory the last time the two teams met, Cleveland served notice early it wasn’t going to back down from the third-ranked Walker Valley squad.
The Lady Raiders won the opening tip and Sydnie Anderson quickly drove the paint for the game’s first basket.
The teams swapped the lead four times and the game was tied twice in the first six minutes before the Lady Raiders edged ahead by five points when Nora Berry drained a 3-pointer with two minutes to go in the period.
Walker Valley was able to pull back within a point by the first buzzer with four free throws in the final minute.
The second period was more of the same with five lead changes until an offensive rebound putback at the halftime horn by Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhhamad tied the game at 28-28.
Walker Valley looked as if it was going to take control when it held Cleveland scoreless for the first three minutes of the third frame while pulling out to a five-point lead.
Once again the scrappy Lady Raider youngsters answered by scoring the game’s next 13 points while the Lady Mustangs hit a seven-minute dry spell.
Down by eight points with 6:10 left in the game, Walker Valley got a 3-pointer from Karis Terpstra to kick-start a 7-0 run and close the gap to a single point with 3 1/2 minutes to go.
Unfortunately for the Lady Mustangs they wouldn’t score again, missing their final eight shots. Meanwhile, Cleveland (14-11) got a spinning jumper from Anderson, plus went 5-for-7 from the free throw line down the stretch to hand Walker Valley (23-2) just its second loss of the season.
“We weren’t patient enough on our shot selection,” first-year Lady Mustang coach Jan Spangler remarked. “We also gave up too many second-chance shots.”
The Lady Raiders outrebounded Walker Valley 33-22 in the contest with freshman “Q” Abdullah-Muhammad leading the way with a double-double, netting a game-high 16 points and cleaning the glass for 10 caroms.
Anderson added 11 points and a half dozen boards in the winning effort while freshman Nora Berry helped out with nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers, four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
Junior Taylor Neuharth drained a pair of long-range shots as she topped the Walker Valley tote board with 11 points, all of which came in the opening half.
Senior Karis Terpstra drilled a trio of treys for nine points, while classmate Kayla Sewell netted seven points and pulled down a half dozen rebounds.
Lady Cherokees 42
Inspired by watching Cleveland pull off the upset, the third-seeded McMinn County (12-17) girls gave Bradley (23-5) all it could handle early on, leading 18-16 at the first break.
The Bearettes, who defeated the girls from Athens by 31 and 26 points during the regular season, took control in the second period with a 21-3 run to put the game away by the half.
Coach Jason Reuter’s squad continued to dominate in the second half, stretching their lead to 23 heading into the final period before coasting to the 32-point victory.
Five Bearettes scored in double figures with freshmen “Twin Towers” Rebecca Reuter (6-foot-2) and Brooke Copeland (6-foot-1) dropping in a dozen points apiece, as did sophomore Kayla Withrow, who pumped in four 3-pointers.
Reuter led the “board patrol” with seven rebounds, while Copeland pulled down six and junior Monica Hammond cleared five ricochets.
Juniors Caroline Smith and Kayla Beavers pumped in 10 points apiece, with the former grabbing six rebounds and the latter sinking a pair of long-range treys.
Bradley won the battle of the boards by a 35-30 margin and took advantage of 17 Lady Cherokee turnovers.
McMinn County’s Haley Ward led all scorers with 21 points, including a half dozen 3-pointers, while Cara Smith netted 10 points.
Cleveland 13 15 8 12 — 48
Walker Valley 12 16 5 7 — 40
Lady Raiders (48) — Berry 9, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 16, Sydnie Anderson 11, Atarah Abdullah-Muhammad 7, Capron 3, Langford 2, Perkins.
Lady Mustangs (40) — Jordan Neuharth 5, Taylor Neuharth 11, Terpstra 9, Allen 2, Sewell 7, Stepp 2, Sotuyo 4.
3-pointers: Cleveland 2 (Berry 2); Walker Valley 6 (Terpstra 3, T. Neuharth 2, J. Neuharth).
Free Throws: Cleveland 17-of-28; Walker Valley 10-of-13.
Records: Cleveland 14-11; Walker Valley 23-2.
McMinn County 18 3 10 11 — 42
Bradley Central 16 21 17 20 — 74
Lady Cherokees (42) — Brown 4, Haley Ward 21, Cara Smith 10, Derrick 2, Murillo, K. Smith 3, Burke 2, Hennessee, Brewster.
Bearettes (74) — Caroline Smith 10, Hammond 2, Kayla Beavers 10, Brooke Copeland 12, Kayla Withrow 12, Rebecca Reuter 12, McCracken 6, Formont 7, Carroll, Whitted 3, Atkins, Hubbard.
3-point goals: McMinn 6 (Ward 5, C. Smith); Bradley 8 (Withrow 4, Beavers 2, Whitted, Formont).
Free Throws: McMinn 6-of-12; Bradley 12-of-17.
Records: McMinn County 12-17; Bradley Central 23-5.