Ron King was hot and his teammates knew it.
So the Owls kept feeding the ball to King and the senior guard responded with 13 of his game-high 24 points in a 30-point third quarter and Ooltewah cruised to a convincing 81-46 victory over McMinn County on Tuesday night in the District 5-AAA opener for both schools.
McMinn County’s girls pummeled the Lady Owls, 67-37, in the night’s first varsity game.
King scored 13 of Ooltewah’s first 20 points in the third quarter, including two 3-pointers to help the Owls stretch a 38-19 halftime lead into a 35-point spread heading into the final eight minutes of play.
“We always look for the open guys,” said King, whose season-high is 31 points against Hardin Valley in the season opener. “We want everybody to score, but if you’re open and you’re hot we’re going to feed the hot guy.”
King had the hot hand, for sure.
C.J. Fritz, who scored 11 points, started the Owls’ NBA-like, third-quarter assault with a brilliant bank shot while fading away toward the baseline and Daniel Rose followed with a layup.
With 5:52 left in the period King hit a lane floater, drained a 3 from the left wing and added a fast-break layup to give the Owls a 49-24 lead at the 5:10 mark. Snider capped the 13-5 run with another fast-break layup.
King’s 3 in that run was a perfect example of how his night played out.
After a rebound on the defensive end, the Owls pushed the ball up-court and a mid-court pass zipped toward King deep in the left corner downcourt.
The pass sailed high, but King leaned over the sideline – only his right foot was inbound while his right arm was outstretched to the limit of his sizable wing span – and in one motion grabbed it and threw back to his teammate just inside the mid-court line.
The teammate immediately threw the ball back to King, who had deftly regained his balance, and the sharpshooter put up the 3 that hit nothing but net.
The partisan crowd bellowed its approval.
After Snider’s layup the Cherokees scored seven straight points – they still trailed 51-31 – before Ooltewah scored 17 of the game’s next 19 points to turn the game into a 35-point trouncing.
“Overall this is the best effort we’ve had all year,” Owls co-head coach Andre Montgomery said. “We didn’t play very well in losing to White County here on Monday and didn’t have this type effort.”
King, a 6-foot-2-inch guard equally at home inside or on the perimeter, scored six points in the second quarter and put up five in the first.
“Ron played good,” Snider said.
Even though Montgomery turned the game over to reserves in the fourth period, the Owls kept pace with the Cherokees, each team scoring 13 points.
The Owls needed less than five minutes to set the tone for Tuesday’s game, hitting with Cherokees with a 19-5 run opening the first quarter. King made a layup and a 3 midway through the spurt.
Ooltewah was up 32-17, but put up six points in 50 seconds and stretched the lead to 21 points.
The Owls consistently forced turnovers and turned them into points at the other end with relentless pressure defense from baseline to baseline.
“That’s what defense can do for you,” King said. “Defense comes first with us because defense wins ballgames.”
Said Snider, “That’s probably the best defense we’ve played all season. We wanted to deny the ball, deny the wings, get pressure on the point guard and force turnovers. We did a good job doing that tonight.
“Now we need to start putting together games when we play really good on both ends of the court.”
Montgomery, who is taking on most of the in-game coaching duties after veteran coach Jesse Nayadley was promoted to athletic director earlier in the school year, wants the Owls to take advantage of every turnover. Had they done that against the Cherokees, it’s conceivable they could have smashed the 100-point barrier.
“We had quite a few transitions off turnovers, but we probably missed 15 layups,” he said. “But if we keep playing good defense the offense will feed off that and a lot more shots will start falling.
“The kids did a good job staying in front of the ball and all five guys on the floor were rebounding on the defensive end and that’s what it takes to win in this league.”
Henry Hammonds scored 10 points for McMinn County.
In the girls’ game, Rachel Burke poured in 21 points – she had eight in the second quarter and six in the third – in leading the Lady Cherokees to the easy win.
McMinn County enjoyed a 33-22 halftime lead and went on a 10-0 run late in the third period to open a 52-24 advantage.
The Lady Owls (1-3, 0-1), who scored 16 second-quarter points, were held to 15 in the second half.
Ebony Kelley scored 14 points and Rachel Simbeck added 12 for McMinn County.
Sophomore Tamiyah Baker was the lone Lady Owls player in double figures, finishing with 11 points, including one 3-pointer.
Note: Ooltewah’s home game against Walker Valley, another district foe, scheduled for Friday will be played Thursday night.
McMinn County 15 18 20 14 – 67
Ooltewah 6 16 7 8 – 37
McMinn County (67) – Cornett, Wilson 1, Rachel Simbeck 12, Rachel Burke 21, Maddron 1, Dispensa 4, Ebony Kelley 14, Montgomery 3, Taloria Robinson 12.
Ooltewah (37) – Cline, Cooper 4, A.Jones, H. Hall 2, G. Hall, Tamiyah Baker 11, Thompson, Spange 1, Corley 9, R.Jones, 2, Cox 4, Cain 3.
3-Point Goals: McMinn County 3 (Simbeck 2, Montgomery); Ooltewah 2 (Baker, Corley).
McMinn County 9 10 14 13 – 46
Ooltewah 21 17 30 13 – 81
McMinn County (46) –Cruze 9, Henry Hammonds 10, Martin 1, Marshall 2, Edgeman 5, No. 20 5, Armstrong, Arnwine, Brown 2, Collins 2.
Ooltewah (81) – Johnson 7, Boyd, King 24, Ben Snider 16, C.J. Fritz 11, Ross 2, Montgomery 6, Williams 2, Wooden, Hughes 4, Freeman 2, Strickland, Cothran 6, Rose 1.
3-Point Goals: McMinn County 1 (Cruze); Ooltewah 6 (King 3, Snider, Fritz, Montgomery).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)