Mustangs Do It Again: Go From 4-Seed To 5-AAA Tourney Champ

Walker Valley's Scoring Balance Finally Subdues Cleveland, 68-63

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - by Larry Fleming

Carbon copy.

Walker Valley went from a four-seed to champion – again.

Following the same path they took to the 2013 District 5-AAA championship, the Mustangs held off Cleveland, 68-63, Tuesday night for their second straight tournament title behind four starters with double-figure scoring and in front of a raucous, near capacity raucous crowd at East Hamilton High School.

“I’m on top of the world right now,” said Mustangs senior Lukas Korn. “We came through and did it again. It was a total team effort. I’ve been at Walker Valley four years and we won this thing twice. That’s great.”

Walker Valley (21-9) advances to the Region 3-AAA tournament and will host the No. 4 team from District 6-AAA, Cumberland County (11-18) while the Blue Raiders entertain No. 3 White County (22-7). White County beat Cumberland County, 72-38, on Tuesday.

In the 6-AAA girls consolation game, Cookeville edged Rhea County, 67-56. So, 5-AAA champion Bradley Central will host Rhea County on Friday and McMinn County will be at home against Cookeville.

The 6-AAA boys and girls championship games are scheduled for Wednesday night.

“We’ve watched teams from that other district and they’re all good,” Mustangs coach Bob Williams said. “We will have our hands full, no matter which team we play.”

The Ooltewah and Bradley Central boys, both 15-11 on the season 11, will hit the road and play at the 6-AAA champion and runner-up on Saturday. The Bears whipped the Owls, 67-54, for third place on Tuesday.

Cleveland leads the overall series with Walker Valley, 23-9, including a 20-6 mark during the regular season. It’s a different story in the postseason with the Mustangs pulling level at 3-3 with Cleveland after Tuesday’s win.

“I don’t think anybody has a magic potion for playing your best basketball toward the end of the season,” said Walker Valley coach Bob Williams, who is 11-20 overall against Cleveland. “But for the last two years we’ve played our best basketball at the right time and I’m excited for our guys.”

Austin Harwood led the Mustangs’ balanced attack with 17 points, including 12 in the second half.

Long-ranger Brandon Crews, who hit one 3-pointer in the title game (he drained six in a first-round win against Soddy-Daisy), finished with 15 points and got 11 in the opening half.

Korn tossed in 14 points and scored eight in the fourth quarter, with two buckets coming in the first 1:13 of the period.

Logan Melton added 11 points, hitting two 3s in the first period.

Those players make up four-fifths of the Mustangs’ all-senior starting lineup – Dustin Swafford is the other one.

Steady Kendrick Thompson, who shared regular season MVP honors with Ooltewah’s Ben Snider, scored a game-high 29 points for the Blue Raiders. In three tournament games, Thompson rang up 85 points, including a tournament-high 35 in a semifinal win over Ooltewah, for a 28.3-point average.

“But this loss is very disappointing,” Thompson said. “If we had won it would have been a whole lot better.”

Crews set the early pace, scoring six of the Mustangs’ first 11 points.

After trailing for the entire first period, the Blue Raiders overtook the Mustangs when Thompson hit a free throw for a 21-20 lead. Cleveland was up 28-27 with 1:05 left in the opening quarter, but Walker Valley went on a 6-0 run that spilled over into the third period to go up by eight points.

The Mustangs led 44-35 after back-to-back baskets by Dustin Swafford and Logan Melton. Cleveland clawed back into the game with nine straight points – seven by Thompson – to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.

“It’s a brand new ballgame right there,” Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said, “and you’re eight minutes away from a district championship. We obviously couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth quarter.”

What was running through Korn’s mind?

“I was thinking we can’t lose all our momentum,” he said.

Korn made a spin move and hit a short jumper falling away. He was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw 12 seconds into the final period.

Korn broke free on a fastbreak and got the Walker Valley faithful on their feet with a dunk 61 seconds later and the Mustangs had some breathing room at 48-44.

“That was huge for them,” McCowan said. “We had scramble because we were playing from behind. High school kids see a four-point (deficit) and they start pressing a little bit. In reality, it’s just a two-possession game.”

Thompson showed how quickly he can strike a defense.

The 6-foot-1-inch guard turned a Walker Valley turnover into a driving layup and made another 15 seconds later to tie the game at 48-all.

“Kendrick does a lot for us,” McCowan said. “He gets nearly 30 when he’s tired and getting the most attention from Walker Valley’s defense. It’s pretty impressive what he did in this tournament.”

Thompson scoring quickly was exactly what Walker County didn’t want to happen.

“When the fourth quarter started our thought was don’t let Kendrick shoot the ball,” Crews said. “Chase him off the 3-point line and make him get to the hole. That was the plan because he’s a scorer and if he gets hot it’s over.”

This time, it wasn’t.

Crews hit a free throw, Bryce Nunnelly made two and Harwood dropped in two straight layups and the Mustangs had reasserted themselves at 55-48 with 3:40 left.

Cleveland’s Cantrel Ware made 1 of 2 free throws, but Korn answered with a layup off an assist by Crews to put the Mustangs’ lead at 57-49 -- to cap a pivotal 9-1 run -- at the 3:12 mark. That was Walker Valley’s last field goal until Korn connected on a layup with 64 seconds remaining.

In between Korn’s two buckets, however, Jake Gibson drilled a 3 from the right corner to trim the Blue Raiders’ point shortage to 58-54 with 2:23 on the clock.

“When it’s tournament time, Lukas steps up,” said Crews, who transferred to Walker Valley from Cleveland Christian School prior to the 2012-13 school year.

Cleveland was forced to foul and the Blue Raiders’ foul woes continued to mount. Walker Valley continued to make them pay. Crews and Harwood each made two free throws ahead of Korn’s basket and Nunnelly added a charity toss, pushing the Mustangs out front by 65-57 with 56.2 seconds showing.

The party was winding down.

Walker Valley hit 12-of-17 free throws in the fourth quarter and 17 of 21 for the game.

The Blue Raiders were 14 of 22 from the free-throw line.

The Mustangs made 23 of 43 shots for 53 percent, 10 percentage points better than Cleveland (21 of 49). They won the rebounding battle 26-23 and overcame 13 turnovers for the win.

“I came into the year thinking (Walker Valley) was the most well-rounded team in terms of guards, shooters and post players,” McCowan said. “A lot of our stuff is off the dribble and kick it out to the 3s. We don’t look much to the post.”

Now, the Mustangs can move on for another shot at a region title.

“Winning the district feels great,” Harwood said. “We’ve won it two years in a row and you can’t ask much more as a senior. We just have to keep going.”

Bradley Central 67, Ooltewah 54: The tournament’s Nos. 1 and two teams were relegated to the under card on Tuesday. The Bears proved to be the best team at bouncing back from a semifinal loss.

Ben Snider hit a baseline jumper to give the Owls a 45-44 lead 43 seconds into the final quarter.

Bradley then reeled off the game’s next 12 points – half of them by Taylor Bentley – and delivered a knockout punch that produced an 11-point lead with 4:12 left in the game.

Ooltewah closed to within 58-49 with just under three minutes remaining, but the Bears’ Dee Crisp, Daniel Clark and Bentley each scored two points in a 28-second span to close out the Owls at 65-49.

Cole Copeland paced Bradley with 19 points, Clark scored 17 and Bentley had 16.

Ron King led the Owls with 18 points that came on six 3-pointers – Ooltewah made 10 in the game. Snider scored 13 points.

SUMMARIES

Championship Game

Cleveland                                           13 15 16 19 – 63

Walker Valley                                    16 16 12 24 – 68

Cleveland (63) – T. Ware 4, C. Ware 8, Tatum, Kendrick Thompson 29, Beaty 6, Scott 5, Brown 2, Vecchio, Muniz, Gibson 9.

Walker Valley (68) – Logan Melton 11, Austin Howard 17, Lukas Korn 14, Brandon Crews 15, Swafford 2, Herd, Morrow 6, Jones, Nunnelly 3,

3-Point Goals – Cleveland 7 (Thompson 3, Gibson 3, Scott), Walker Valley 5 (Melton 2, Morrow 2, Crews).

Consolation Game

Ooltewah                                           12 9 15 11 – 54

Bradley Central                                  22 9 13 23 – 67

Ooltewah (54) – Johnson 6, Boyd 6, Ron King 18, Ben Snider 13, Edward Montgomery 11, Ross, Freeman, Jones.

Bradley Central (67) – Daniel Clark 17, Cole Copeland 19, Crisp 4, Taylor Bentley 16, McCurdy 3, Gregory 6, Cox, Morgan 2.

3-Point Goals – Ooltewah 10 (King 6, Montgomery 2, Johnson, Snider), Bradley Central 5 (Copeland 2, Bentley, Clark).

All-District 5-AAA Team (Regular Season)

MVP – Ben Snider, Ooltewah/Kendrick Thompson, Cleveland

Coach of Year – Chuck Clark, Bradley Central

Taylor Bentley – Bradley Central

Daniel Clark – Bradley Central

Brandon Crews – Walker Valley

Lukas Korn – Walker Valley

Austin Harwood – Walker Valley

TyQwon Ware – Cleveland

Cantrel Ware – Cleveland

Jaymcal Johnson – Ooltewah

Kenny Bunton – East Hamilton

Tucker Landreth – Soddy-Daisy

Robbie Saxton – McMinn County

District 5-AAA All-Tournament Team

Walker Valley – Austin Harwood, Brandon Crews, Lukas Korn

Cleveland – Kendrick Thompson, Jake Gibson, TyQwon Ware

Bradley Central – Taylor Bentley, Daniel Clark

Ooltewah – Ben Snider, Jarek Boyd

East Hamilton – Kenny Bunton

Soddy-Daisy – James York

McMinn County – Jaylon Martin

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)

 

 




Berger Leads GPS Past Pope John Paul II In Volleyball

Lilly Berger had 14 kills, six aces and 11 digs as the GPS volleyball team opened its 2017 season with a 3-0 win over Pope John Paul II in Hendersonville Friday afternoon. Emma Moore added 30 assists and 11 digs as the Bruisers won by scores of 25-14, 25-19 and 25-16. GPS STATS: Lilly Berger -- 14 kills, 6 aces, 11 digs Emma Moore -- 3 kills, 30 assists, 2 aces, 11 ... (click for more)

Lookouts Hold On To Win Third Straight Game Over Smokies Friday, 9-8

KODAK, Tenn. -- Jonathan Rodriguez homered and singled, driving home three runs as the Chattanooga Lookouts topped the Tennessee Smokies 9-8 on Friday. Chattanooga, winners of four straight games, leads second-place Montgomery by seven games. The magic number to clinch is down to 11. Lookouts right-hander Felix Jorge (10-3) picked up a quality start and the win after allowing ... (click for more)

City Seeks To Be Removed As Trustee Of Confederate Cemetery

Mayor Andy Berke on Friday said he has asked City Attorney Wade Hinton, on behalf of the city of Chattanooga, to file the necessary paperwork "to confirm the city is no longer listed as a trustee of a Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street." Mayor Berke said, “Our action today makes it clear that the city of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and ... (click for more)

Judy Kay Peer, 69, Killed When Train Hits Her Car At Hamill Road Crossing In Hixson

Judy Kay Peer, 69, was killed on Friday night when a train struck her car in Hixson on Friday night. Ms. Peer, a Hixson resident, was driving a 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Police said she  was traveling west on Hamill Road and had stopped at the railroad crossing. The gates were extended with flashing lights and a sounding bell. A train that was traveling northbound on ... (click for more)

Mayor Invites Civil War II - And Response (8)

I just received an email from the Mayor stating that he filed paperwork to remove the city of Chattanooga as the trustee for the Confederate Cemetery on Third Street. I understand the Mayor's intent was to distance the city from it's racist past and subsequent hate, but I feel like this is an interesting move without much thought of the consequences. The Mayor prefaced his ... (click for more)

Confronting Racism In Public Education

Like most Americans, we have been bothered by the news in recent days. And as we have struggled to understand the racial issues that continue to confront our nation, we are left to ponder the issue even more within the context of public education.  The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It is one of the few issues on which almost everyone can agree. We ... (click for more)