CLEVELAND, Tenn. – For the most part, seedings for postseason high school basketball tournaments hold up well.
There are upsets, at times. Some mild. Some more stunning.
On “Semifinal Saturday” in District 5-3A at Walker Valley High School, three favorites won, including both higher seeded girls’ teams.
Second-ranked Bradley Central, unbeaten at 27-0 and the No. 1 seed, hammered rival Walker Valley, 83-33. You can take that seed to the bank.
Senior Rhyne Howard needed 30 points to move ahead of Trecia Watson into sixth place on the Bearettes’ all-time scoring list. Howard scored 30 and her total of 2,309 points is one point ahead of Watson. Next in Howard’s crosshairs is No. 5 Brittany Jackson at 2,439.
Bradley coach Jason Reuter mulled a question about how much higher Howard can climb the program’s scoring list.
“The farther we go (in the postseason), the farther she goes,” Reuter said.
East Hamilton’s got a career-high 32 points from sophomore Madison Hayes and crushed No. 3 Cleveland, 67-51. East Hamilton’s No. 2 seed was rock solid.
The Lady Hurricanes rode Hayes’ back throughout the game and walked away with a record-tying 24th win against four losses. East Hamilton also finished with 24 wins in 2011, 2013 and 2016.
“Cleveland is a very good team, but we knew they were slower than us, so we wanted to play a faster pace and get to the bucket,” Hayes said. “We didn’t think they could stop us inside.”
In boys’ play, No. 1 Cleveland took a sledgehammer to McMinn County, 94-57, as Deontae Davis poured in 25 points. No surprise there. The Blue Raiders are gunning for their second straight tourney title.
The lone outcome that rattled the seedings came in the finale where No. 3 Walker Valley built a huge lead and then held on for dear life, beating No. 2 East Hamilton on Jordan Munck’s driving layup with 24.3 seconds left. Built on a foundation of sand.
East Hamilton’s DaVae Hughley, who scored 27 points, got a final shot off, but it was off the mark.
“Their guy pushed my elbow and I thought the ref would call it,” Hughley said. “Everybody saw it. It’s frustrating. We fought so hard to come back, we got the lead and had the game. We gave it right back to them.”
The Hurricanes had the lead only once, at 55-54 on Cameron Montgomery’s free throw with 3:21 left in overtime. The Mustangs’ Jordan Munck, who scored 22 points (teammate Kolten Gibson had 27), made a free throw 23 seconds later to tie the game.
Cleveland’s boys had no trouble pummeling the Cherokees and racing into another championship showdown, and Davis paved the way. He scored his 1,000th career point with a patented flat-footed 3-pointer from the left corner with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
“That’s really great,” said Davis, a senior. “I’ve worked hard for a long time to get there. I asked coach (Jason McCowan) how close I was before the game and he told me 17. I told him that would be easy.”
Davis makes a habit of taking long 3s, just barely on the playing surface, either on the side or the baseline. Many times, he’s less than six inches from the boundary.
“I just get to the corners and shoot,” he said.
On Monday, East Hamilton and Bradley, which has won 52 straight games against league foes, including the district and region tournaments, will square off in the girls’ championship game at 7:30 p.m. Walker Valley and Cleveland play for third place at 6 p.m.
Cleveland and Walker Valley will battle for the boys’ title on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. after East Hamilton and McMinn County play for third place at 6 p.m.
Bradley Central girls 83, Walker Valley 33: Howard, the Kentucky signee, is a cool, calm and deadly force on the court shreds opposing defenses almost effortlessly. And she doesn’t focus much on offensive numbers.
“I don’t think about points while I’m playing,” said Howard, a 2018 Miss Basketball finalist – she finished runner-up in 2017. “I just play.”
Howard’s field goal with 1:20 left in the third quarter, pushed her past Watson. It was the icing on another solid effort by the 6-foot-1 point guard, who hit 11-of-17 field goals, including 4 for 6 from 3-point distance, grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and recorded five steals in 24 minutes.
The Bearettes (27-0 and ranked No. 2 by MaxPreps, never gave the Lady Mustangs a chance. Bradley went up 21-4 in the first period and led 51-15. It was 73-25 going into the fourth period when reserves took over.
Bradley will be gunning for its eighth consecutive tournament championship under Reuter, and ninth overall, on Monday.
With post Haley Jones out of the starting lineup due to a concussion, Walker Valley was in a tough spot inside and the Bearettes, who have won 59 of their last 60 games, went right at the Lady Mustangs’ defense.
Anna Walker scored 11 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting and tied her career-high of 16 points while providing Howard plenty of support.
“The key is that we want to always start fast no matter who we’re playing,” said Walker, a sophomore who also scored 16 against Stone Memorial in the Bearettes’ regular-season finale. “Most times we’re taller than the other team and that’s to our advantage. Since Jones was out, we thought we could do really good inside.”
It was yet another example of Howard again doing her “nightly thing” and a teammate stepping up.
“We’re on pace to set a record for most 3-pointers made,” Reuter said, “but we’re still an inside out team. “The last time this team lost a ballgame, we went 1-for-16 on 3-pointers against Stewarts Creek in the sectionals.
“We’ve got one star and a bunch of players who know their roles. Last year it was Howard and almost always Halle Hughes. This year, it’s Howard and you can pick a name out of the hat.”
Lauren Lay scored 12 points for the Lady Mustangs (16-10)
East Hamilton girls 67, Cleveland 51: The Lady Hurricanes trailed 18-16, but went on a 19-2 run to close the first half with a 35-20 advantage.
Hayes was masterful with 22 first-half points and finished with 32 points on 8 of 16 shooting and 14 rebounds, 10 on the defensive boards. She went 12 for 16 at the free-throw line and also added seven assists.
“We were pretty good tonight,” Lady Canes coach Hunter Gremore said. “Madison was really good. When we weren’t hitting shots in the first half, she kept us in the game.”
East Hamilton extended a 35-20 halftime lead to 41-20 in the first two minutes of the third period. DeZah Lacy, who scored 10 points, hit two buckets and Kaiyanna Suttles made one. Up 47-31 in the fourth, Hayes scored five straight points and Suttles, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, followed with six in a row and the lead was 58-39. The final five-plus minutes were just a formality.
“We wanted to keep (Emma Flowers) off the boards because she can score a lot of second-chance buckets,” said Hayes, whose sister, eighth-grader McKenna, scored five points. “We were really on her, defending her hard and pretty much shut her down.”
Flowers had eight points after going for 19 in a 64-31 win over Ooltewah on Tuesday. Caitlin Reed scored 10 points for the Lady Raiders.
“There’s a big difference between regular season games and tournament games,” Gremore said. “If your intensity is not there and you effort isn’t good, you can be in trouble. Tonight’s game was, I think, more important than Monday’s will be. This win allows us to host a first-round region game, so we’re set up good for next week. Now, we want a district championship and we hope to beat Bradley. I’m extremely proud of the girls for reaching the title game two straight years.”
Walker Valley boys 62, East Hamilton 60: The Mustangs (12-14) are dangerous anytime the postseason rolls around. They won three titles in the previous five years, plus coach Bob Williams’ bunch was playing on its home floor.
Walker Valley set the tone early, erupting for six straight 3-pointers – three each by Gibson and Munck – to open a 26-16 lead. East Hamilton (21-7) trailed 37-24 at halftime.
“It took a toll on us trying to play catch-up all night,” Hurricanes coach Zach Roddenberry said. “We’re a bunch of fighters, but that made it tougher on us than I would have liked.”
Walker Valley had a shaky 45-40 lead going to the fourth period. The lead was still five points at 50-45 when the Canes made their push.
Drew Williams hit a baby hook and Hughley dropped a layup off the glass. Gibson countered with a three-point play. Cameron Montgomery’s 3 pulled the Canes to within 53-52. Walker Valley’s Nate Cooper made a free throw, his only point of the game.
Hughley made two free throws with 1:45 left in regulation. After a Walker Valley turnover, Cooper couldn’t collar a low cross-court pass and it bounced out of bounds. East Hamilton held for the last shot and actually got two chances, but the ball was off the mark.
After Montgomery’s go-ahead free throw, Munck tied the game at 55-55 and Gibson drained a 3. Williams’ three-point play pulled the Canes back even at 58-all. Munck canned two free throws. Williams’ layup retied the game at 60-60.
Montgomery was called for a travel, although he never stopped dribbling the ball with 46 seconds remaining. Munck, who is magician at finding open space driving to the hoop, went in almost uncontested for what turned out to be the game-winner.
“We didn’t give up in this game,” Munck said. “We were trying to run the clock and coach Williams said if I got a free, open look, take it to the hole.”
Said coach Williams: “East Hamilton really turned up the heat on us in the second half. They had the momentum. Man, their guards are so quick it’s hard to withstand that the whole game. We regained our composure and we’re advancing. Cleveland is going to be a challenge on Tuesday, but I think we’ll be OK.”
Cleveland boys 94, McMinn County 57: Davis had plenty of offensive help as Dionte Ware scored 18 points and Isaiah Johnson added 14 points. Ware got 15 of his 18 in the first quarter when the two teams were exchanging baskets before Cleveland took a 29-23 lead.
Davis hit three 3s in the first eight minutes and added seven in the second when Johnson pumped in 12 of his 14 points and Cleveland went into halftime with a comfortable 55-37 advantage.
“I’m really proud of Deontae for all his hard work,” McCowan said. “When he was in middle school he wasn’t even on the radar. He came in and worked hard and you see the fruits of his labor.”
With Davis leading the way, Cleveland put up a season-high 94 points. Their previous high of 92 points came – believe it or not – against McMinn County on Feb. 6 in a 53-point victory.
Six days later, Bearden pounded the Blue Raiders (21-4) by 93-76.
“This was a pretty good bounce-back win,” McCowan said. “It’s an important win. We get to play at home to start the region tournament next week.”
McMinn County’s Taurean Jones, who scored his team’s final 23 points on Friday in a 55-54 win against Bradley Central, was held to 10 points, all coming in the first quarter. He later fouled out. Landon Wilson led the Cherokees (10-16) with 11 points.
Walker Valley 4 11 10 8 – 33
Bradley Central 21 31 21 10 – 83
Walker Valley (33) – Nipper 2, Davis 5, Clark, Anderson 4, Lauren Lay 12, Frost 2, Kile, Roberts 1, Baker 3, Jones, Fowler, Gibson, Harris.
Bradley Central (83) – Hughes 5, Mayo, Rhyne Howard 30, Anna Walker 16, Lombard 6, Williams 2, Roberts 4, Reuter, Blair 8, Barnes 7, Carman 3, Hullender 2, Muhonen.
3-Point Goals – Walker Valley 3 (Davis 2, Baker 1), Bradley Central 10 (Howard 4, Hughes 1, Lombard 1, Roberts 1, Blair 1, Barnes 1, Carman 1).
Cleveland 10 10 9 22 – 51
East Hamilton 11 24 12 20 – 67
Cleveland (51) – Caitlin Reed 10, Goodman, Person, Dasher 8, Franklin, Langford, Flowers 9, Douglass 2, Callahan, Droke, Bailey Anderson 13.
East Hamilton (67) – Lacy 8, Kaiyanna Suttles12, Medley, Madison Hayes 32, Mc. Hayes 8, Zeh, Johnson, Petitt, Evans, Abernathy 3, Laboo 4.
3-Point Goals – Cleveland 4 (Dasher 2, Williams 2), East Hamilton 6 (Ma. Hayes 4, Abernathy 1, Mc. Hayes 1).
McMinn County 23 14 9 11 – 57
Cleveland 29 26 24 15 – 94
McMinn County (57) – Evans 7, Bradley 4, Hammonds 9, Landon Wilson 11, Taurean Jones 10, Sharp 6, Elkins 3, Hicks 3, James, Buckner 3.
Cleveland (94) – Johnson 4, Mallek Johnson 14, Bradford 2, Wood 9, Hurst 5, Colbaugh, Dionte Ware 18, Patterson 3, Devontae Davis 25, McGowan 3, Howard 4, Burke 1, Black 6
3-Point Goals – McMinn County 5 (Evans 1, Hammonds 1, Jones 1, Elkins 1, Hicks 1), Cleveland 9 (Davis 5, Johnson1, Hurst 1, Patterson 1, McGowan 1).
Walker Valley 23 14 8 9 8 – 62
East Hamilton 13 11 16 14 6 – 60
Walker Valley (62) – Jordan Munck 22, Westfield 2, Kolten Gibson 27, Wallace, Cooper 1, Dustin Bunton 10, B. Gibson.
East Hamilton (60) – Wilson, Williams 9, Cameron Montgomery 13, DaVae Hughley 27, S. Randolph 7,
3-Point Goals – Walker Valley 9 (K. Gibson 5, Munck 4), East Hamilton 4 (Hughley 2, Montgomery 1, Dozier 1).
Girls Third Place
Walker Valley vs. Cleveland, 6 p.m.
East Hamilton vs. Bradley Central, 7:30 p.m.
Boys Third Place
McMinn County vs. East Hamilton, 6 p.m.
Walker Valley vs. Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.
Boys championship, 7:30 p.m.
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)