It has been a tough season for the Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.
That’s why all four squads were playing on the first night of the District 5-3A tournament at Soddy-Daisy High School.
Ooltewah swept the Wednesday games and remained alive in the tournament, but things get a lot harder from here on out.
The No. 6-seeded Owls (9-14) used a strong second half spearheaded by the impressive one-two offensive punch of Cam Chambers and Corey Morgan and blew past the No. 7 Trojans 64-54.
When Soddy-Daisy (2-24) trimmed the Owls’ lead to 31-29 midway through the third quarter, Chambers and Morgan scored 22 of the team’s next 33 points and Ooltewah regained a comfortable double-digit advantage.
The Owls, playing in their first district tournament in two years after the program was disbanded after an incident in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in December 2015, advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals and will face No. 3 Bradley Central (17-8) at 7:30 p.m.
Ooltewah’s Lady Owls (7-18) knocked off the Lady Trojans (6-23) by 50-28 to win the season’s rubber-match game. The teams split during the season with each team winning by 24 points at home.
Ooltewah moves on to face No. 3 Walker Valley (on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Ooltewah boys 64, Soddy-Daisy 54: The Owls, who had lost seven of their last nine games, had a 27-13 halftime margin and bumped it up two points when Torey Morgan hit a layup to start the third quarter.
After a Trojans’ free throw, Chambers scored on a layup to push the Owls’ lead to 31-23. Soddy-Daisy put up the next three baskets, two layups and a put-back by Doug Volker, Jake Flippo and Hunter Burke, and climbed to within 31-29.
Chambers and Corey Morgan then took over by attacking the rim and layup after layup after layup – they each scored 11 points in the game-closing spree. The Owls make one 3 (Omari Kendricks) in the game and the rest of their 28 field goals most came were from close range.
“We worked hard on moving the ball and were getting some easy shots inside,” said Chambers, who scored 20 points, 13 coming after halftime. “It feels great to be back in the tournament and this shows what we can do.”
Chambers also pulled down nine rebounds, six on the offensive boards.
Said Morgan, who added 15 points with 10 in the second half, “This win means a lot to us and it shows how much improvement we’ve made this season. We played pretty good and weren’t selfish. Our pressure defense helped create some easy buckets too.”
Ooltewah coach Jay Williams said his guards played a big role in the scoring success of Chambers and Morgan, pushing the ball up court and finding the potent duo consistently in the paint.
The Owls’ Daizon Taylor was credited with 11 assists.
“We played hard from start to finish,” Williams said. “Soddy-Daisy didn’t fold their tent either. We’ll have to play great defense against a really good Bradley team (Thursday). We need to play hard and play together and down the stretch do what we need to do to win. You don’t expect anything to come easy at this point in the season.”
Bradley (17-8), swept the regular-season series with the Owls by 57-45 and 55-51 scores.
“We’ll enjoy this one this evening, get some rest and come back to work (Thursday) night,” Williams said.
The Trojans’ only two wins this season came against Sale Creek and they lost their final three games and 23 of the last 24.
“Ooltewah is really tough on the offensive glass,” Trojans coach Reid Daniels said. “We’re undersized at times and we gave up too many second-chance opportunities. Sometimes it was third- and fourth-chance situations. They went straight at our heart with shots close to the bucket. Our seniors did a good job keeping us in the game before we lost the grip.”
Burke led the Trojans with 14 points and Flippo added 13
Ooltewah girls 50, Soddy-Daisy 28: The Lady Owls led 12-6 and ran off 12 straight points for a 24-6 lead. Tiera Lemon, Madalyn Mills and Mackenzie Patterson each scored four points in the surge.
Annalee Cline started the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers, pushing Ooltewah’s lead to 34-15.
“I think I’m a pretty good 3-point shooter,” said Cline, a sophomore who also knocked down a 3 early in the first period. “Hitting one or two gives me a lot more confidence.”
Mills started the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers, her second and third of the game. She was one of three players with 11 points. Annalee Cline and Lemon were the other two.
Mills, another sophomore, Cline and Lemon each scored 11 points. Lemon is a senior.
“We played pretty well tonight and we had a lot of energy from the first tip,” Mills said. “We were ready to play and this was probably one of our best games all year.”
Senior Aubbie Collake had a good feeling about Wednesday’s game.
“Winning a district tournament game feels great,” she said. “We knew we could beat them. We had two really good practices and put it all together tonight. It’s the first time we’ve won in my four years.”
Ooltewah’s zone trap defense bothered the Lady Trojans throughout the game and was key in holding the home team to single-digit scoring in each of the four quarters.
“We’ve used it all season at select times,” Lady Owls coach Jensen Morgan said of the zone trap. “It worked really well in the first half, but Soddy-Daisy made some adjustments. This is a big win for our girls.”
As has been the case all season, Alexis Trimiar was Soddy-Daisy’s main scoring threat, tossing in 15 points with eight coming in the second half.
“Tonight wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” Lady Trojans coach Drew Lyness said. “When we beat them earlier we still had our point guard. At their place, we didn’t have Trimiar. Ooltewah’s defense gave us problems and we couldn’t make a shot to save our life.”
Ooltewah 16 11 18 19 – 64
Soddy-Daisy 9 13 12 20 – 54
Ooltewah (64) – Taylor 6, McReynolds 9, Tucker, Kendricks 4, Braden, T. Morgan 6, Cam Chambers 20, Corey Morgan 15, Ju. Walker 4, Je. Walker, Houston, Howard, Henry, Cargle.
Soddy-Daisy (54) – Perez 8, Branam 8, Jake Flippo 13, Humphries 1, Massengale 2, Coffelt 3, Hunter Burke 14, Patton, Chambers, Durain, Volker 5.
3-Point Goals – Ooltewah 1 (Kendricks), Soddy-Daisy 5 (Perez 2, Branam 2, Flippo 1).
Ooltewah 20 8 8 14 – 50
Soddy-Daisy 6 7 8 7 – 28
Ooltewah (50) – Annalee Cline 11, Poland, Swafford 9, Kilgore, Wardlaw 2, Madalyn Mills 11, Collake 2, Tiera Lemon 11, Turman, Patterson 4.
Soddy-Daisy (28) – Dent 4, Davis 2, Kearney, Alexis Trimiar 15, Williams, Pruitt, Prestwood, Hall 3, Hamby 3, Branam, Davis 1
3-Point Goals – Ooltewah 4 (Cline 3, Lemon 1), Soddy-Daisy 1 (Hall).
Ooltewah girls vs. Walker Valley, 6 p.m.
Ooltewah boys vs. Bradley Central, 7:30 p.m.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)