COLLEGEDALE — Prepared to weather a Hurricane, Walker Valley had a simple, easy ride in the rain for a pair of District 5-AAA victories Friday evening at East Hamilton.
“They (EH) beat Cleveland (68-62) and we lost to Cleveland (56-43) Tuesday, so we were expecting a very tough test tonight,” commented Mustang head coach Bob Williams after his herd scored the first dozen points of the game before trotting to a 55-27 win.
Likewise, the Lady Mustangs netted 11 points before the hosts found the bottom of the bucket as Coach Jessica Stone’s fillies rode to a 53-35 final for their fifth win in a half-dozen district battles.
“A win is a win,” declared Coach Stone, who saw her team let a 23-point lead slip to single digits in a four-minute span in the third period before weathering the storm to pull away for the victory. “We had a rough patch there in the third, but we were able to bounce back to finish it off.”
Walker Valley will now take on Sequoyah Monday evening at “The Stable,” before starting the second half of the district schedule with a trip to Jim Smiddy Arena to face county-rival Bradley Central Friday evening.
The Lady Mustangs (10-5, 5-1 District 5-AAA) surprised the Bearettes (11-5, 4-1) 45-38 in their December meeting, while the Bears (9-7, 5-0) were able to nip the Mustangs (10-7, 3-3) by a narrow 54-53 margin.
Racing out of the gate from the opening tip Friday, Walker Valley senior Brandon Crews drilled a 3-pointer on the game’s opening possession and then ripped the cords from distance again four and a half minutes later to complete the opening 12-0 run. In between, Crews also had a steal and an assist on a fast break basket by teammate Logan Melton.
Senior Dustin Swafford helped calm “The Storm Center” home crowd early as well with a pair of blocked shots, four rebounds and a putback basket before East Hamilton finally got on the scoreboard with a free throw with two minutes remaining in the opening frame.
“Our defense set the tone early,” assessed Coach Williams. “Our defense gave out offense several easy baskets. We played well as a team tonight. When we do that, we’ve had good success. In the losses we’ve had recently, we played as individuals instead of as a team. Tonight, we were a team.”
After leading 14-6 at the first horn, the Mustangs scored the final seven points of the opening half for a 25-14 edge at the intermission.
The Hurricanes (5-10, 3-3) netted the first basket of the second half, but Walker Valley answered with a 10-0 run and later added the final eight points of the third frame to go up by 22.
A 10-1 spurt by Mustang reserves to start the final period stretched the difference over the 30-point mark as a total of 14 players hit the court for Walker Valley throughout the game.
Of the 10 Mustangs to get in the scoring column, only one netted double figures. Crews scored his team-high 10 points in the opening half, plus he grabbed a pair of rebounds, handed out a pair of assists and copped a trio of steals.
Melton added nine points to the winning total and dished off three “dimes,” while Swafford helped out with eight points, nine caroms and his two blocks.
“(Austin) Harwood and Melton played some really good defense on their (EH) best players. Swafford is very capable of having great games like this all the time,” praised Coach Williams.
Walker Valley won the battle of the boards by a 30-15 margin, plus shot 55 percent (17-of-31) from in front of the arc and went 4-for-12 from distance. The Mustangs also sank all nine of their free throw attempts. The Hurricanes made just 10-of-37 field goals, plus turned the ball over 21 times.
Lady Mustangs 53
Lady Hurricanes 35
Defense also helped the Walker Valley girls get out to a quick start and set the tone. Four first quarter steals turned into points as the visitors raced out to an 18-4 advantage by the first break.
The Lady Mustangs continued at a full gallop with an 11-2 run to open the second frame for a 23-point lead with 3:42 remaining in the first half.
After leading 33-12 at the intermission, Walker Valley netted the first basket of the third period before East Hamilton (2-13, 0-5) came out with a hot hand, draining 4-of-5 3-point shots in a three-minute span. The hosts completed their 14-0 run when eighth-grader Rhyne Howard put back in an offensive rebound to close the gap to just nine points.
The Lady Mustangs were able to edge the advantage back to a dozen (42-30) heading into the final frame and then add another six points to the difference by the final buzzer.
Junior Jaclyn Griffith led the way for Walker Valley with 17 points, four rebounds an a steal, while senior guard Lyndsey Macon scored just two points but had five rebounds, four steals and four assists.
“They both did great, especially considering Jaclyn has been sick and could hardly breath and Lyndsey has a swollen finger,” Coach Stone remarked. “We got a good team effort tonight.”
Sophomore Emilee Spann and senior Victoria Jones netted 10 points apiece, with the latter draining a pair of 3-pointers and copping a trio of steals. Junior DJ Mowery came off the bench to add a half dozen points and six rebounds to the winning effort.
Both teams put up 52 shots from the field in the contest, with Walker Valley making 19 and East Hamilton 13, which also led to a total of 63 rebounds in which the Lady Mustangs claimed a slim 32-31 edge. The visitors sank 11-of-15 free throws, while the host made just 3-of-10.
Walker Valley 18 15 9 11 — 53
East Hamilton 4 8 18 5 — 35
LADY MUSTANGS (53) — Jaclyn Griffith 17, Emilee Spann 10, Victoria Jones 10, Mowery 6, Percy 4, Alomar 3, Macon 2, Cox 1, C. Davis, P. Davis, Lay.
LADY HURRICANES (35) — Rhyne Howard 12, Taylor Giles 12, Black 4, Wood 2, Woods 2, Petitt 2, Stovall 1.
3-POINTERS: WV 4 (Jones 2, Alomar, Griffith); EH 6 (Giles 4, Howard 2).
FREE THROWS: WV 11-of-15; EH 3-of-10.
RECORDS: Walker Valley 10-5, 5-1 District 5-AAA; East Hamilton 2-13, 0-5 District 5-AAA.
Walker Valley 14 11 18 9 — 55
East Hamilton 6 8 7 6 — 27
HURRICANES (27) — Mac Brower 10, Thompson 6, Durah 3, Lowery 3, Wright 2, Wingard 2, Chacko 1, Jackson, Sparks, Burton, Griffith, Beach.
MUSTANGS (55) — Brandon Crews 10, L. Melton 9, Swafford 8, Herd 7, Jones 6, Harwood 4, Korn 4, Williams 3, Conway 2, Nunnelly 2, Melton, Hunt, Russell, C. Melton, Montgomery.
3-POINTERS: WV 3 (Crews 2, Williams); EH 3 (Brower 2, Lowery).
FREE THROWS: WV 9-of-9; EH 4-of-7.
RECORDS: Walker Valley 10-7, 3-3 District 5-AAA; East Hamilton 5-10, 3-3 District 5-AAA.