CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Ooltewah’s high-octane Owls went into Friday night’s game at Bradley Central with the state’s fifth-highest scoring offense.
They couldn’t outscore the fired-up Bradley Central Bears though.
After Ooltewah built a nine-point lead, Bradley went on a 13-2 run to open a 55-53 lead and the Bears went on to beat the Owls, 68-62, in an early-season District 5-AAA showdown at Jim Smiddy Arena.
That completed a two-game varsity sweep for Bradley. The Bearettes hammered Ooltewah, 74-19, for their 27th consecutive victory over the Lady Owls.
The boys’ game was the center of attention though.
In early November Ooltewah was picked to win the regular-season title. Bradley finished fifth in that same balloting.
On Friday, the Bears (5-4, 4-0) played a strong fourth quarter, schooled the Owls on off-the-dribble breaks to the basket and pinned a hard-to-stomach loss on coach Andre Montgomery’s squad.
“We played lazy defense,” Montgomery said. “We came right up on them, hugged their hip and they went right by us every time. I think they took three jump shots the whole fourth quarter – they didn’t make three jump shots – and the rest were layups.”
The lone jumper the Bears did make in a 26-point quarter was Daniel Clark’s 3 from the left wing. Clark, a 6-foot-1-inch junior wing and the nephew of Bears coach Chuck Clark, scored seven points in the decisive quarter, driving for a layup and hitting the 3 in a 23-second span that tied the game at 53-all with 6:17 left.
“Early in the game we were running our main offense and tried to break them down with screens,” the younger Clark said. “Later we spread the floor on them and people started getting open and beating them off the dribble.”
Time after time after demoralizing time the Owls repeatedly were a step slow to cut off drives to the basket and the Bears’ efficient offensive attack overwhelmed Ooltewah in 5 minutes and 50 seconds of the game.
Taylor Bentley’s layup put the Bears up 55-53. Bentley would finish with a team-high 15 points, nine in the fourth period.
Clark drove the lane for another layup.
Bradley McCurdy hit a layup, freshman Cole Copeland dropped in an off-balance bank shot, Bentley drove to the basket again and the Bears had a 63-55 advantage.
“I give them credit for getting to the rack,” said senior guard Ben Snider, who led the Owls with 16 points before fouling out with less than four minutes remaining. “But in the end we didn’t play with guts, we didn’t defend like we normally do and we got beat.”
While Bradley was penetrating the lane with ease, the Owls managed just six points in the first 5 minutes, 24 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Ooltewah’s 62 points was 19.3 points below their per-game average of 81.3, which ranked fifth in the state behind Knox Carter (90.9), Dyer County (88.8), Christ Presbyterian Academy (88.7) and Douglass (85.9) going into Friday night action.
The Bears had a 68-57 lead with 1:14 on the clock, but the Owls got field goals from Jarek Boyd and Ron King and a C.J. Fritz free throw in the final 59.3 seconds to make the final margin a bit closer.
As the game turned on spreading Ooltewah’s defense to open driving truck-size openings toward the goal, Chuck Clark said that wasn’t necessarily the game plan.
“We’ve been a flex team for a long time and we knew they would be switching screens and all that,” he said. “Off of a sudden, we started beating them more off the dribble. We’re going to the hole until they stop it because we have a good free-throw shooting team. If they foul us, they foul us. If they don’t, we’ll shoot a layup.”
That’s exactly how the final eight minutes played out.
Ooltewah left Cleveland seeking answers to a last-quarter letdown that came three days after scoring 51 second-half points to defeat East Hamilton, 85-72.
“This is a disappointing loss,” Montgomery said. “We had a chance to get a win on the road, and it’s not easy to win at Bradley. They kept fighting and we laid down after playing well in the third quarter and turning a deficit into a lead.
“But credit Bradley for playing hard the whole night.”
Ooltewah and Bradley were level at 37-37 with 4:16 left in the third quarter when the Owls went on their most impressive streak of the game.
Fritz made a steal and a tough bank shot to give the Owls a 39-37 lead. Edward Montgomery dropped in a layup, Snider drilled a short jumper and Ooltewah extended the margin to 43-37.
Bradley’s Dee Crisp scored off an inbound pass, but Montgomery hit a free throw, Snider drained a step-back jumper and King followed a Snider miss with a put-back goal to push the Owls’ lead to 48-39.
King’s runner with 22.6 seconds left in the third gave the Owls their biggest lead at 51-40, but Bentley drove the baseline for a layup to trim the deficit to 51-42 and set up the game-changing fourth quarter for the Bears.
Jaymcal Johnson scored 13 points and King added 11 for the Owls (5-4, 2-1).
McCurdy scored 13 points and Copeland added 11 for Bradley.
The two teams expect a tough, hard-nosed game any time they play and the series has been tenaciously -- and almost evenly played. Bradley now has won six times and Ooltewah five in the last 11 meetings.
In the girls’ game, the Bearettes (8-2, 3-1) raced to a 21-6 first-quarter lead and never looked back.
Senior Brooke Copeland, a University of Florida signee, scored 21 of her game-high 25 points in the first half when the Bearettes built a 39-9 advantage.
Bradley, which had six different players connect on a 3-point shot, stretched that lead to 59-11 after three quarters and turned most of the final period over to reserve players.
Rebecca Reuter, the other half of Bradley’s formidable “Twin Tower” attack – Reuter stands 6-2 and Copeland is 6-1 – scored 13 points. Reuter will play college basketball at Middle Tennessee State University.
Tamiyah Baker scored five points, including a 3-pointer to open the game, for the Lady Owls (2-5, 1-2).
Ooltewah 6 3 2 8 – 19
Bradley Central 21 18 20 15 – 74
Ooltewah (19) – Cline 2, Cain, Taylor, Cooper, A.Jones, H.Hall 2, G.Hall, Baker 5, Thompson, Spange 2, Corley 3, B. Jones, Henderson 1, K. Cox 2, C. Cox 2.
Bradley Central (74) – Hughes 7, Davis 3, K. Brown 5, E. Brown 8, Gaither 7, Stallings 3, Brooke Copeland 25, Dalane, Summars 3, Rebecca Reuter 13, McRae.
3-Point Goals: Ooltewah 1 (Baker); Bradley Central 6 (Hughes, Davis, Gaither, Stallings, Summars, K.Brown).
Ooltewah 12 17 22 11 – 62
Bradley Central 15 16 11 26 – 68
Ooltewah (62) – Jaymcal Johnson 13, Boyd 8, Ron King 11, Ben Snider 16, Fritz 7, Ross, Montgomery 6, Turner 1.
Bradley Central (68) – McGowan, Clark 9, Cole Copeland 11, Maroon 1, Crisp 4, Taylor Bentley 15, Bradley McCurdy 13, Gregory 7, Cox 2, Morgan 6.
3-Point Goals: Ooltewah 3 (Johnson, King, Montgomery); Bradley Central 1 (Clark).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)