Now that was a little weird.
Walker Valley and Ooltewah started a District 5-AAA basketball game back on Dec. 6.
They finished it Saturday – two days shy of a month after it began.
When James Naismith invented the game and it was played outdoors weather may have caused more than a few suspended games that were picked up at a later date. Last month the game was suspended when condensation on a warm December night on the Edward M. Foster Gymnasium court caused problems for both teams.
Saturday’s completion – the game was picked up with Ooltewah holding an 18-6 lead with 2:32 left in the first quarter – went off without a hitch.
The Owls built an 11-point lead early in the fourth period, fought off a Walker Valley rally and held on for a 65-57 victory despite missing 6 of 8 free throws in the final 38.9 seconds.
“It felt a lot strange,” Ooltewah coach Andre “Tank” Montgomery said of the pick-up start at 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday. “In my years of playing and coaching I’ve never had a game suspended and picked up with two minutes left in the first quarter.
“It was different.”
There was another oddity.
Ooltewah senior Ben Snider scored two points on Dec. 6, but didn’t play Saturday due to suffering a broken middle finger on his right hand when a car trunk lid was slammed on it. He’ll miss two or three games.
“It happened two days ago,” Snider said. “It’s broken in two places and I’ve got stitches. I get the stitches out next Friday and I think I can play again. The doctor said it will take a couple of weeks to completely heal.”
Snider was thrilled to see his teammates take care of business with him dressed in street clothes and sitting on the sideline.
“People think I’m the main part of the team, but it shows we can get it done without me,” Snider said. “As bad as I wanted to play I’m glad they got the win without me.”
Junior Jarek Boyd scored a career-high 19 points to lead the Owls (9-5, 2-1) with 19 points and was joined in double figures by three teammates. Jaymcal Johnson had 13 points and Ron King and C.J. Fritz each scored 12 – all three are seniors.
Walker Valley (8-6, 2-2) got a team-high 19 points, including four 3s, from Brandon Crews while Austin Harwood scored 14 and Logan Melton added 11. All three are seniors.
The first quarter ended with Johnson hitting a 3 with 0.2 seconds left on the clock and the Owls had a 22-16 lead. Crews had made a 3 19 seconds earlier.
The Owls’ lead was still six points (29-23) in the second period, but Ooltewah outscored Walker Valley 9-4 down the stretch, including Johnson’s 3 at the halftime buzzer.
“We had to make some adjustments because at the beginning it didn’t feel like a real game,” Johnson said. “Once we got going we picked it up and felt OK.”
Early in the third quarter Ooltewah built its biggest lead at 42-31 when Fritz dropped in a running back shot high off the backboard with 5:51 left in the period.
Crews hit a 3 and Dustin Swafford made a field goal and the Mustangs trailed 42-36.
Johnson answered with a bucket and Fritz canned two free throws, pushing the Owls lead up to 46-36.
Ooltewah caused Walker Valley problems with offensive rebounding and its patented transition game. While the Mustangs did better against the fast-moving Owls’ transition attack but couldn’t solve their rebounding advantage.
“That’s one of the biggest things we’ve got to fix,” Walker Valley coach Bob Williams said.
Ooltewah closed the third period with a Dajuonta Ross tip-in with 22.4 seconds left and started the fourth quarter with a Ron King fastbreak layup for a 52-41 lead.
The Mustangs went on a 12-4 run and closed within 58-53 – Harwood started and ended the spree with layups.
Johnson, who was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line, dropped in two charity tosses to end the Owls’ short dry spell. Walker Valley’s Lucas Korn and the Owls’ King each made one free throw and Ooltewah’s lead was still five points (59-54).
Ross followed King’s miss with a tap-in and Fritz made two free throws to give the Owls a 63-54 advantage with 62 seconds remaining. Fritz went 8 of 10 from the stripe.
Harwood hit the first of two free throws and followed his miss on the second attempt with a rebound and field goal at the 48.5-second mark as the Mustangs climbed to within 63-57.
Ooltewah missed 6 of 8 free throws – Johnson hit two with 26.7 seconds on the clock – over the final 38.9 seconds, but Harwood’s field goal was the final time Walker Valley scored down the stretch.
“That says we’re learning,” Montgomery said of his team holding off the Mustangs in the final minutes. “We’ve had those leads before. Considering we had a starter out with a broken finger and two starters (King and Boyd) fouled out, we held on to keep the lead at eight points and that was pretty good of the boys.
“There at the end we had the right people wanting the ball, but we still missed six free throws and that’s been our Achilles heel. We’ve got to knock them down when they count.”
The Owls hit 21 of 32 free throws – Boyd made 7 of 8. The Mustangs went 12 of 17 from the charity stripe.
Walker Valley 16 11 14 16 – 57
Ooltewah 22 16 12 15 – 65
Walker Valley (57) – Logan Melton 11, Austin Harwood 14, Korn 9, Brandon Crews 19, Swafford 4, Russell, Jones, Morrow.
Ooltewah (65) – Jaymcal Johnson 13, Jarek Boyd 19, Ron King 12, Snider 2, C.J. Fritz 12, Ross 6, Montgomery, Freeman, Cothran.
3-Point Goals: Walker Valley 5 (Crews 4, Milton); Ooltewah 3 (Johnson 2, King).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)