The up and down season for McMinn County and Ooltewah was on full display inside the Owls’ Ed Foster Gymnasium Monday night. The pendulum swung high for Ooltewah last night and the visiting Cherokees hit another low note on their season when the Owls avenged an earlier 15-point loss to McMinn County thanks to a 79-56 thumping of the visitors.
And with two weeks to go in the regular season, it will be interesting to see where this roller coaster ride ends for both squads.
How crazy of a season has it been for these two? The Cherokees were riding a three-game win streak and were threatening to pull even on the season after starting the year 0-5.
The Owls, on the other hand, had just one District 5-AAA coming in but own not one, but two victories over AA power Tyner Academy on their resume.
“We tend to play better against some teams, but we’ve been talking a lot about what it means to be a good program and that means being a little more consistent night in and night out. Tonight, I thought we had great effort no matter who was on the floor for us. It was a great team effort,” said Ooltewah coach Jay Williams.
It was certainly an all-around effort by the Owls, especially in the second half, but it didn’t hurt having sophomore Kobe Smith and senior Cam Chambers on the floor. The two combined for 47 points with Smith getting 18 in the first half and Chambers getting 16 of his after the break.
“It was a huge game for us tonight,” said Smith, who was a dominant force on the inside. “I was a little more aggressive tonight looking for shots because coach told me that’s what he wanted me to do.
“We’re just trying to figure this thing out heading into the tournament and tonight felt good,” Smith added.
The two squads battled to a 16-all first quarter tie and the Owls scored the final four points of the half to take a 36-32 lead into the dressing room. It was a contrast in styles, with the Cherokees rocking the 3-point shot and the Owls pounding it inside and taking it to the rim.
McMinn County hit five treys in the first half to keep it close and Ooltewah taking advantage of six offensive rebounds.
“We knew they could shoot it, but they were really shooting it in the first half, but we made some adjustments at the half to try to make it a little harder and I thought that was a key,” Williams said.
The Cherokees missed all nine of their 3-point attempts in the final half and made just 25 percent of their shots after the break. For the game, McMinn County hit just 19 of 57 shots (33 percent) and turned it over 19 times in the game.
The Owls, on the other hand, were a picture of consistency in the final half, missing just nine of 28 shots and finishing the game at a 55 percent clip (33 of 60).
Even more impressive than the shooting, though, was the all out effort on the floor. Every loose ball and every rebound found someone in red giving the extra oomph to win a possession. At times, it looked like a bunch of wild dogs fighting for a piece of raw meat.
“We just got outhustled, outplayed and outcoached tonight. You could tell they really wanted it,” said McMinn County coach Ed Clendenen. “We will just have to try to regroup from this one and get after the next one, but my hat is off to them tonight.”
Ooltewah (11-12, 2-7) used the energy to push the lead to nine heading into the final period and utilized a 12-3 run in the final period to make this one a no-doubter. When Smith fouled out with4:25 left to go it was a big sigh of relief for the Cherokees until the senior Chambers took control with six straight points to make sure there was zero shift in the momentum.
“Cam is a senior and he can take control like that when he plays under control. I thought tonightwas one of those games where it didn’t matter who was out there, they all stepped up and played a role. We have to have that next-man-up mentality because we are a really young team,” Williams admitted.
McMinn County (9-12, 5-4) relied heavily on Taurean Jones, who had 15 of his game-high 26 points in the first half. He, along with two other Cherokees starters were saddled with foul problems throughout, though, and Jones exited the game with his fifth personal at the 3:01 mark. He was one of two Cherokees to foul out in a game that saw 58 fouls whistled against the two teams.
Ooltewah had five players with five or more rebounds led by Chambers with nine and Smith with seven, including five offensive rebounds. Greyson Wood, Ian Shropshire and Logan Henry each had five boards and the Owls finished with 12 offensive caroms.
Sam Hammonds added nine points for McMinn County to pitch in on Jones’ 26-point night.
McMinn County girls 58, Ooltewah 27: The Lady Cherokees continued to stay in contention for the league’s No. 2 seed with a resounding victory on the strength of seven first-half 3-pointers. In fact, all four of McMinn County first quarter shots were treys and the Lady Cherokees led 31-17 at the break.
McMinn County is now 13-6 and 6-3 in 5-AAA play, tying them with East Hamilton for the second spot. The two clubs have one more meeting, but McMinn County already owns one win over the state-ranked Hurricanes. Cleveland also sits at 5-3 in the league with a win against McMinn and another game to be played with them.
Kaylen Hicks and Kaitlynn Hennessee each had 14 for the winners with Whitney Green chipping in eight and Paige Manney seven. For Ooltewah (5-12, 1-8), Madalynn Mills was good for a dozen and was the lone players in double digits.
McMinn County 16 16 12 12 -- 56
Ooltewah 16 20 17 26 -- 79
McMinn County (56) – Evans 2, Bradley, Hammonds 9, Eaton 4, Wilson 4, Runyan, Johnson, Sharp 1, Elkins, Hicks 3, Brown 1, T.Jones 26, Daniels, Bucker, Peel, Beavers, J.Jones.
Ooltewah (79) – Wood 1, Shropshire 8, Braden 3, Henry 7, McHone 1, Chambers 22, Ko.Smith 25, Walker 2, McCluekin 4, Robinson, Ke.Smith 2
3-point goals: McMinn County 5 (T.Jones 3, Hammonds, Hicks); Ooltewah 1 (Henry)
McMinn County 13 18 13 14 -- 58
Ooltewah 8 9 6 4 -- 27
McMinn County (58) – Pickel, Liner 4, Burns 3, Hennessee 14, Green 8, Manney 7, Hicks 14, Schiestar 2, Sitzler 2, Baxter, Gleaton 4.
Ooltewah (27) – Cline 5, Polard, Thompson, Wardlan , Mills 12, Chesnut 2, Turman 6, Poherra 2.
3-point goals: McMinn County 8 (Hicks 4, Green 2, Liner, Burns); Ooltewah 0
(Contact James Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @beachnut1134)