CLEVELAND, Tenn. – It was rout night Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the Soddy-Daisy boys and girls were victimized in blowouts as the District 5-AAA high school basketball tournament opened at Cleveland High School.
The second-seeded Cleveland Blue Raiders unleashed two back-breaking runs in the first half and went on to demolish the Trojans, 69-42, for their third win over Soddy-Daisy this season.
In the night’s first game, McMinn County’s Lady Cherokees held the Lady Trojans to 10 first-half points and rolled to a 53-29 victory. It was also McMinn’s third win over Soddy-Daisy and second in three days.
With the opening-round victories, the Blue Raiders and Lady Cherokees advanced to the semifinals and earned spots in the Region 3-AAA tournament, which also will be held at Cleveland High.
Two more first-round games are scheduled tonight.
The third-seeded Cleveland girls (15-8) play Ooltewah (5-19) at 6 p.m. and the third-seeded Bradley Central Bears (14-11) tangle with No. 6 McMinn County (8-15) at 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Raiders never gave Soddy-Daisy a chance.
Cleveland (17-9) and Soddy-Daisy (9-15) were tied at 5-5, but the Blue Raiders ran off 12 straight points – four by Jahmal Johnson – and led 17-5 after one quarter.
Following a Soddy-Daisy 3 by James York to start the second period, Cleveland outscored the Trojans, 12-2, and stretched the lead to 29-10 and 51 seconds later the margin was 33-11.
That was it.
“The fast start was very satisfying,” Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said, “because it means your kids are listening and doing it at the right time of the season. We sure didn’t want to put ourselves in a hole we’d have to dig out of. We didn’t have to call a timeout to get their attention. I don’t think I called a timeout all night.”
It wasn’t necessary.
Cleveland was racing away, 35-14, at halftime.
“That’s what they do,” Soddy-Daisy coach Kevin Templeton said. “It’ll be 15-14 and then you look up and it’ll be 26-15. They can do those things.
“They’re pretty good. I thought we were ready to play. We’ve played better than this and it’s certainly not typical of how we’ve played the second half of the season. That’s what makes this so disappointing.”
Cleveland kept up the pressure, forcing Soddy-Daisy into numerous turnovers and forced shots. The Blue Raiders outscored the Trojans, 12-7, to start the third quarter and had a 47-21 advantage with 2:44 on the clock.
Soddy-Daisy scored eight of the game’s next 10 points, but still faced a 20-point deficit at 49-29. C.J. Bryant’s 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in the quarter gave the Blue Raiders a 52-29 lead.
Johnson dropped in a layup, Isaiah Beaty converted a three-point play and Johnson hit another goal to extend the Blue Raiders’ lead to 59-29 with 7:05 left. Bryant drilled two 3s in the next two minutes and the spread was 67-35 at the 4:17 mark.
“Cleveland is deep,” Templeton said. “They’re fast. You know, speed never takes a day off. No doubt they were the most aggressive team out there and they had us reacting to them. We don’t want to be the reactor. We want to be the ‘actor,’ but we were on our heels the whole night.
“I’m not upset with my kids because they battled to the end. You have to give Cleveland all the credit. It was more about what they did than what we didn’t do.”
Despite having beaten the Trojans twice during the regular season by 82-63 and 60-36, the Blue Raiders came out with fire in their belly, avoiding a letdown in what often is termed as a “trap” after two previous victories over the same team.
“We’re playing well right now,” McCowan said. “I want them to focus on continuing to do that. This time last year was one of the few teams I’ve had that wasn’t playing better as the season went on. These kids are maturing and taking these games serious.”
Bryant led the Blue Raiders with a game-high 22 points, including three 3s. Johnson and Kendrick Thompson each scored 14 points.
York, a junior, scored 14 points and was the Trojans’ lone player in double figures.
In the opening girls game of the tournament, the Lady Cherokees (18-7) started strong against the Lady Trojans and quickly built a 19-5 lead with five points to open the second quarter.
The Lady Trojans (10-15) got a field goal by Mallory Wade from the left wing, but McMinn County’s Keke Smith scored seven straight points and opened a 31-12 advantage with 5:45 left in the third quarter.
McMinn County, which swept Soddy-Daisy in 20- and 28-point victories during the regular season, outscored the Lady Trojans, 8-2, during one fourth-quarter stretch and led, 49-25, with just over two minutes left.
“I’m really happy with the 17 turnovers we forced, but not with a lack of offensive production in the first half,” McMinn County coach Tim McPhail said. “Soddy-Daisy was outhustling us in the first half. I told our girls at halftime that if we wanted a chance at the championship they would have to make some changes in the second half, and they did that.”
Smith led the Lady Cherokees with 17 points. Haley Ward scored 12 points and Alisa Guardiola finished with 11.
Sydney Orr, the lone senior on the Lady Trojans’ roster, scored 11 points in her final prep basketball game for Soddy-Daisy.
“We had to break McMinn’s press and we knew it was coming,” Soddy-Daisy coach David Casteel said. “We did a better job against their pressure, but it wasn’t good enough.”
Soddy-Daisy 5 5 10 9 – 29
McMinn County 14 10 17 12 – 53
Soddy-Daisy (29) – Harris 5, Hale 2, Sydney Orr 11, Mitchell, Smith 2, Hopkins 2, Ward 2, Hancock, Phillips, Duncan, Wade 5.
McMinn County (53) – Cornett 2, Wilson, Simbeck, Haley Ward 12, Burke 8, Dispensa 3, Kelley, Alisa Guardiola 11, Thompson, KeKe Smith 17.
3-Point Goals – Soddy-Daisy none; McMinn County 3 (Ward 2, Smith).
Soddy-Daisy 5 9 15 13 – 42
Cleveland 17 18 17 17 – 69
Soddy-Daisy (42) – Amos 7, Landreth 8, Carter 6, Wright 4, James York 14, Floyd 3, Millsaps, Kearney, Shaughnessy.
Cleveland (69) – C.J. Bryant 22, Ware 2, Kendrick Thompson 14, Beaty 5, Scott 3, Brown 2, Constant 2, Little 2, Jahmal Johnson 14, Bunion, McRee, Dykes, Gibson.
3-Point Goals – Soddy-Daisy 5 (York 3, Landreth, Floyd); Cleveland 5 (Bryant 3, Thompson 2).
Seeds In Parenthesis
6 p.m. – (6) Ooltewah vs. (3) Cleveland, girls
7:30 p.m. – (6) McMinn County vs. (3) Cleveland, boys
6 p.m. – (5) Rhea County vs. (4) Walker Valley, girls
7:30 p.m. – (5) Rhea County vs. (4) Walker Valley, boys
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)