Cleveland Opens Stretch Run With Owl Whipping

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - by James Beach
Cleveland’s Darius Howard and Michael Dale block out Ooltewah’s Julien Walker.
Cleveland’s Darius Howard and Michael Dale block out Ooltewah’s Julien Walker.
- photo by M.A. Locke

There may not be a more adjusted team around than the Cleveland Blue Raider basketball squad. Between suspensions and dismissals, the Blue Raiders have reinvented themselves time and again as the season has progressed and Tuesday night in a big District 5-3A battle at Ooltewah, the Cleveland squad took it to a new level.

The boys in blue, playing with just 8 players dressed, did what they do best with a helter skelter style that absolutely disrupted the host Owls before foul problems forced them to go half-court game and the transition was as seamless as one of their many uncontested layups.
Cleveland (15-4, 3-2) put on a clinic in throttling Ooltewah with an 80-41 blitz.

It was Cleveland’s fourth win this year by 30-plus points and marked the squad’s 10th win in 11 outings and seventh straight.

“We feed off that defensive energy and we love to jump the ball and make life as difficult as possible. It’s been that way from the first day of practice, and really the entire time I’ve been at Cleveland. We go guts out at practice in everything and there is a lot of trust in each other on the court,” said Isaiah Johnson, who seemingly knew every Ooltewah move before the player making it did.

Johnson and his running mate Jacobi Wood helped force 13 first-half turnovers by the Owls and parlayed them into 16 points off of mostly layups as the Blue Raiders broke from a tight early game to take a 38-23 halftime lead. A big 14-2 run to open the second period was the catalyst.

“We didn’t do some things early in that first quarter well, but we put a lot of pressure on their passing. Even when we didn’t get turnovers we got our hands on a lot of balls and that put some fear in them. I think what we did early on really wore them down in that second half and we made a lot of easy run outs because of it,” said Cleveland coach Jason McGowan. 

With just the eight players dressed, though, all the aggressiveness and a tightly whistled game eventually backed Cleveland into a corner personnel wise with the foul problems. No problem for a team that has to adjust to the loss of multiple players in December, forcing the ones on the court to assume new roles and identities in the machine.

“That’s the one thing these kids have done well is deal with adversity. I definitely think they are learning who they are and what they can be. It’s tough on young kids, and they’ve had to adjust and handle a lot in a short period of time. I was proud of the way we played in the half court game. I thought we did a nice job playing inside/out and it opened up the floor,” McGowan.

And the Blue Raiders proved pretty lethal on the open floor, hitting nine 3s on the night with five different players knocking one down. Of course, it was Johnson who seemed most at ease whether it was from behind the arc or slipping through the lane contested en route to a game-high 22 points.

Grant Hurst and Kley McGowan each added 17 and Wood was good for another 14.

Ooltewah (11-7, 3-2) got a dozen from Logan Henry and Jax Howard added eight as the Owls played a little short-handed as well with Greyson Wood sidelined with an ankle injury.

Cleveland begins a nice stretch run of district games beginning with McMinn County on Friday and McGowan expects to start getting some of his suspended players back in the next few weeks as well some eligible transfers.

“I think this team is ready for that stretch run. The calendar has turned so it gets real now. We’ve made it through the first run of district games and we’re ready to make that second run now,” McGowan added.
 
Ooltewah will have to regroup in a hurry, traveling to district unbeaten East Hamilton on Friday.

Cleveland girls 75, Ooltewah 30: The Lady Raiders got at least two buckets from eight different players and drained a total of nine 3-pointers to toast the Lady Owls rather handedly. Cleveland jumped to a 45-15 halftime lead and never looked back.

Bailey Anderson led the winners with 15 points and Kaitlyn Goodman added 11 in the win. Ooltewah was led by Mackenzie Patterson with 10 and Madalyn Mills had eight and was a spark plug in the losing effort.

 
Girls Boxscore

Cleveland    23  21  18  13 – 75
Ooltewah      6    9   11    4 – 30

CLEVELAND (75) – Kaitlyn Goodman 11, Person 8, Rominger 8, Madison Dasher 10, Rouse 6, Douglas 6, Droice 8, Brock 3, Bailey Anderson 15, Walker 

OOLTEWAH (30) – Cline 5, Poland 3, O'Donnell, Hilliard 1, Thompson, Tharp, Iparragus-Garcia, Wardlaw 3, Brown, Mills 8, Daniels, Sutton, Turman, Mackenzie Patterson 10.

3-point goals: Cleveland 9 (Goodman 3, Dasher 2, Rominger, Douglas, Droice, Anderson); Ooltewah 1 (Cline).  

Boys Boxscore

Cleveland    20  18  25  17 – 80
Ooltewah     15    8  12    6 – 41

CLEVELAND (80) – Dale, Isaiah Johnson 24, Howard, Jocobi Wood 14, Grant Hurst 17, Colbaugh 8, Kley McGowan  17, Stum.

OOLTEWAH (41) – Petty, Smith 2, Jax Howard 8, Houston 1, Logan Henry 12, Haynes, B. Walker 2, McClurkin 4, Williams 2, J. Walker 6, Serven 4.

3-point goals: Cleveland 9 (McGowan 3, Johnson 2, Colbaugh 2, Wood, Hurst); Ooltewah 2 (Henry). 

(Contact James Beach at 1134james@gmail.com or via Twitter @beachnut1134)

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