CLEVELAND, Tenn. – The ball seemingly hung in the air for an eternity.
When Caio Hysinger’s desperation shot from mid-court slammed off the glass and swished the net as the final buzzer sounded, fourth-seeded Walker Valley had shocked District 5-AAA tournament favorite Ooltewah, 62-59, Saturday night in Cleveland High School’s jam-packed, steamy Raider Dome.
“Antonio (Jackson) drove and I got a lucky back-tip, the ball went off one of our player’s head and he passed it to me and I just threw it up and hoped for a miracle,” Hysinger said. “I leaned a little trying to give it some body English trying to get it to go in. I feel fantastic.”
Ooltewah, the regular-season champion and tournament No. 1 seed which had won nine straight from the Mustangs, took a 59-57 lead on Ben Snider’s putback with 1:39 remaining. Walker Valley’s Lukas Korn’s layup tied the game with 1-of-2 free throws 24 seconds later.
The Owls (16-9) pulled the ball out and ran the clock down 10.4 seconds before calling timeout. Back on the floor, the Owls ran a couple more seconds off before Jackson drove the left side of the lane toward the basket.
But Hysinger’s heads-up defensive play ruined everything for Ooltewah.
“We were going to roll Ben and bring Daaron up, but they switched it and that’s fine,” Owls coach Jesse Nayadley said. “We still should have got a shot off. We wanted the last shot and win it or go to overtime.”
In the mad scramble near Ooltewah’s goal, Hysinger got the ball, took a few steps toward the mid-court line and heaved the shot that dashed the Owls’ bid to capture the tournament championship.
“I saw the scramble and my assistant had my arm trying to get me to call a timeout,” Mustangs coach Bob Williams said. “I almost called a timeout and almost blew it. I saw the shot and waited and waited.”
“I watched the referees run out the door, so I figured they called the shot good and the game was over,” Williams said.
Walker Valley moves into Tuesday’s championship game against No. 3 seed Bradley Central at 7:30 p.m.
The Bears knocked off No. 2 Cleveland, 54-37, in a game that attracted former Blue Raiders and NBA star Vincent Yarbrough and Tennessee freshman Derrick Reese, of Orlando, Fla., who scored five points in the Vols’ 88-58 dismantling of Kentucky earlier in the day in Knoxville.
Ooltewah and Cleveland, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, are relegated to playing in Tuesday’s consolation game at 6 p.m.
All four semifinalists earned spots in next week’s Region 3-AAA tournament, also at Cleveland High School.
In girls semifinals, No. 1 seed Bradley Central whipped Walker Valley, 53-36, and No. 3 Cleveland upended No. 2 McMinn County, 50-41.
Bradley and Cleveland will clash Monday at 7:30 p.m. for the tournament titles after the Lady Mustangs and Lady Cherokees play for third place at 6 p.m. The Bearettes (24-2) are gunning for their 11th tournament championship since 1993-94. They have played Cleveland in six previous title games in the last 19 seasons.
The Owls and Mustangs played a nail-biter at Walker Valley on Jan. 22, in which Ooltewah pulled out a 67-66 victory. Walker Valley exacted a huge portion of revenge on Saturday.
Ooltewah, which failed to score in the final 3:36 of the second quarter and still was tied with the Mustangs at 26-all, fell behind 45-38 after three quarters of play.
After Jacqueze Robinson’s goal to start the fourth, the Mustangs built a 51-42 lead on two goals by Jackson Brownfield and one by Austin Harwood.
The Owls rallied with 10 straight points from four different players and grabbed a 52-51 lead with 4:54 left.
It was back-and-forth the rest of the game.
“If it comes down to a close game, you don’t know which way it’s going to go,” said Nayadley, who was 9-2 against Walker Valley before Saturday. “We could have hit a shot. They hit a shot. That’s our fault for being on that spot.”
Robinson led the Owls with a game-high 17 points. Andrew Ware added 11 points.
Harwood and Jackson Brownfield each scored 15 points for the Mustangs (17-11), whose last win over the Owls came in a 73-53 decision on Jan. 1, 2009, in a 73-53 decision.
“This gives us some confidence,” Williams said. “We’re finally starting to win these close games after losing most of them during the season. The guys have grown up a lot and starting to finish games.”
Bradley Central 54, Cleveland 37: With a standing-room-only crowd squeezed into the Cleveland gym, the Bears and Blue Raiders locked horns as only they can.
Bradley built a 38-30 third-quarter lead, but the Blue Raiders sliced their deficit to 38-34 with 7:28 left in the game. The Bears blitzed Cleveland, 17-3, over the final 5:05 and moved within one win of securing coach Kent Smith’s 10 District 5-AAA tournament championship in 17 years.
“We played outstanding defense,” said Smith, now 423-143 in his Bradley tenure. “Cleveland is more athletic than us, but we had a plan and our guys executed that plan.”
Only five Bears scored, but four were in double figures. Logan Cox led the way with 16 points, including three 3s. He scored 41 points in three games against the Blue Raiders this season.
Bryce Copeland, Matt Whitmire and Taylor Bentley each had 10 points for Bradley (16-11).
That was more than enough offense for Smith to chalk up his 30th win against 20 losses in the Cleveland series.
Cleveland (17-10) got 15 points from C.J. Bryant and Kendrick Thompson scored 11.
“Bradley is tough when they get the lead,” Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. “And we forced some things that we didn’t need to. Bradley used a box-and-one on Kendrick and I think that rattled him.
“I just hate that we’re not playing for a championship at home Tuesday night.”
Bradley Central girls 53, Walker Valley 36: The top-seeded Bearettes have had their struggles with the No. 4 Lady Mustangs over the years, and Saturday was no exception.
Having beat Walker Valley, 62-42, in November and then pulling out a 58-53 win in the rematch earlier this month, the Bearettes were nursing a 37-26 lead after three quarters.
“We came out with a lot of intensity,” said junior post Brooke Copeland, who scored five quick points to help the Bearettes (24-2) race to a 17-2 lead starting the game. “Coach has been on us all year to put people away quicker.”
But, the Lady Mustangs (15-14) wouldn’t go away.
Until, that is, Bradley Central decided to end all suspense.
Copeland hit two close-in baskets and Kayla Withrow nailed a 3-pointer starting the fourth quarter and Bradley Central stretched the lead to 44-26.
Walker Valley’s Lyndsay Macon was fouled and hit a free throw. However, officials spotted blood on her right arm and she was forced to the sideline. Victoria Jones strolled to the stripe and made the second toss.
Bradley’s Whitney Donaldson drove the lane for a layup and Rebecca Reuter, the Bearettes’ other 6-foot junior post alongside Copeland, made a bucket and the Bearettes were up by 48-28.
The Lady Mustangs, 12-14 all-time against Bradley Central, scored eight straight points to knock the lead down to 48-36, but the Bearettes scored the game’s final five points to seal the deal and advance to Monday’s tournament championship game against Cleveland at 7:30 p.m.
“Coming out of the gate I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” said Bearettes coach Jason Reuter, now 83-10 in three seasons with his third straight title within sight. “The plan was to get momentum early and we did that. These girls have to understand we have to bury teams when we have the chance.
“This isn’t as much about today as it down the road in the postseason when we’re going to be playing tougher teams.”
The Bearettes have been to 29 consecutive Region 3-AAA tournaments and 55 of the past 56, so they know how to get it done. However, Reuter “harped” on his players the entire game to pick up the intensity and handle their assignments offensively and defensively.
“We should never let teams hang around,” said Copeland, who led the Bearettes with 16 points and scored 67 in three games against the Lady Mustangs. “We’ve been doing that all season. We came out with intensity, but had a hard time finishing them off.”
Bradley’s defense forced 11 turnovers and Walker Valley never had the lead, and Reuter found some satisfaction in that.
“I’ll take that every night out,” Reuter said. “While the game was never in doubt, I’m trying to get these girls to come up with a consistent killer instinct.”
Rebecca Reuter scored 12 points and Brandi Whitted had 11 as the Bearettes won their 38th straight game against district opponents.
Jaclyn Griffith paced the Lady Mustangs with 12 points.
“Bradley pressured us in all three games,” said Walker Valley coach Jessica Stone, now 0-6 against the Bearettes. “Tonight it was a mixture of their defense and us not executing on offense. But we never quit.”
The Bearettes quickly turn their attention to the Lady Blue Raiders in the title-game showdown and there will be no taking them lightly. The last time Bradley didn’t appear in a region tournament was in 1983-84 when a 2-19 Cleveland team pulled a stunning 43-41 upset in the district tourney.
Cleveland girls 50, McMinn County 41: Cleveland’s Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad and Sydnie Anderson combined for 26 points to lead the third-seeded Lady Blue Raiders past No. 2 McMinn County in the other semifinal game that saw the teams combined for 46 turnovers.
The game was tied at 17 at halftime, but Cleveland outscored the Lady Cherokees, 15-5, in the third quarter to take control.
Abdullah-Muhammad, a junior, scored 14 points and Sydnie Anderson added 12.
The Lady Blue Raiders, who split two games with McMinn during the season, hit 18-of-48 shots for 37 percent, but were just 2-of-12 from 3-point distance.
Cleveland pulled down 29 rebounds and committed 22 turnovers.
The Lady Blue Raiders (18-8) made 18-of-48 shots for 37 percent, but only 2-of-12 from 3-point distance. They hit 2-of-21 free throws.
McMinn County (18-8) made 16-of-42 shots for 38 percent, including 8-of-24 on 3s for 33 percent. The Lady Cherokees grabbed 23 rebounds and committed 24 turnovers.
Rachel Burke paced McMinn County with 15 points and Haley Ward scored 14.
Walker Valley 7 10 9 10 – 36
Bradley Central 20 11 6 16 – 53
Walker Valley (36) – Watson, Macon 4, Jaclyn Griffith 12, Davis 7, Jones 5, Mowery 2, Alomar 6, Percy.
Bradley Central (53) – Withrow 8, Carroll, Donaldson 4, Brandi Whitted 11, Brooke Copeland 16, Rebecca Reuter 12, Davis 2, Stallings.
3-Point Goals – Walker Valley 5 (Davis 2, Alomar 2, Griffith); Bradley Central 4 (Withrow 2, Whitted, Copeland).
Cleveland 8 9 15 18 – 50
McMinn County 6 11 5 19 – 41
Cleveland (50) – Berry 7, Scoggins 2, A. Abdullah-Muahammad 6, Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad 14, Sydnie Anderson 12, Anderson 7, McClendon 2.
McMinn County (41) – Haley Ward 14, Rachel Burke 15, Guardiola 8, Brooks, Dispensa 2.
3-Point Goals – Cleveland 2 (Berry, Anderson); McMinn County 8 (Ward 4, Burke 4).
Walker Valley 12 14 19 17 – 62
Ooltewah 14 12 12 21 – 59
Walker Valley (62) – Godfrey 7, Austin Harwood 15, Caio Hysinger 13, Melton 7, Korn 3, Swafford 2, Jackson Brownfield 15.
Ooltewah (59) – Jackson 4, Turner 2, Jacqueze Robinson 17, Andrew Ware 11, Snider 8, Maston 9, Bass 5, King 3.
3-Point Goals – Walker Valley 4 (Hysinger 3, King); Ooltewah 7 (Robinson 3, Snider, Maston, Bass, King).
Bradley Central 16 12 10 16 – 54
Cleveland 13 6 11 7 – 37
Bradley Central (54) – Bryce Copeland 10, Matt Whitmire 10, Cain 8, Taylor Bentley 10, Logan Cox 16, Terrell.
Cleveland (37) – C.J. Bryant 15, Ware, Kendrick Thompson 11, Beaty 2, Scott, Little 2, Johnson 7, Jones 2.
3-Point Goals – Bradley Central 5 (Cox 3, Bentley 2); Cleveland 3 (Bryant 2, Thompson).
Seed In Parenthesis
6 p.m. – (4) Walker Valley vs. (2) McMinn County, consolation
7:30 p.m. – (3) Cleveland girls vs. (1) Bradley Central, championship
6 p.m. – (1) Ooltewah vs. (2) Cleveland, consolation
7:30 p.m. – (4) Walker Valley vs. (3) Bradley Central, championship
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)