In front of a packed house inside Raider Arena, basketball fans were treated to a spectacle Friday night as Cleveland and Bradley Central battled it out on the court.
At the final buzzer, the fight for supremacy ended in a draw as the Bearettes (6-0, 1-0 District 5-4A) defeated the Lady Raiders (5-1, 0-1) 47-37 in the varsity opener and the Blue Raiders ( 5-0) fought to a 57-46 win over the Bears (4-2) in the District 5-4A opener for both teams.
Harmonie Ware led the Bearettes with 17 points, but it was the play of Kimora Fielda that drew praise from Lady Raiders head coach Tony Williams.
The win was the 113th straight district win for the Bearettes.
“That's the best Bradley team I've ever seen. They have all the pieces.animals inside and guards that can shoot it,” Williams said. “I couldn't be more proud of our club for continuing to fight. We had some adversity. Shots weren't falling from players we normally make shots with. But, you've got to tip your hat. That's a veteran ball club. They do have some young kids, but those kids have all been in big games before. It's not Kimora Fields' first rodeo, she's tough and she's going to do nothing but get better. She requires so much attention you've got to give up something and they had some kids who knocked down some shots.”
Clefeland's Mila Williams — in her first game back after suffering a foot injury — led all scoring with 20 points — five from behind the 3-point arc — drawing accolades from Bearettes head coach Jason Reuter.
“The Williams girl got loose, we left her open. She hit open shots. We left her too much and she made us pay,” he said.
The first half started slow for both teams as the Bearettes held a slim 9-6 lead after the first eight minutes. The pace picked up in the second quarter with Bradley out scoring Cleveland 13-11 to take a 22-17 advantage into the locker room.
“It was a good game. It's a challenge to come into another team's gym when they've got a good team. It's loud and you can't communicate real well so you've got to rely a lot of communications, kids have to practice that,” said Reuter. “I heard someone say that it's the little things that matter, I don't know if there are any little things. Those little things could be the difference between winning and losing.”
Quarter No. 3 was another low scoring affair. Williams opened for the Lady Raiders with a 3-pointer from the left corner. The Bearettes countered with five points from Fields and a 3 by Ware to open a 30-20 gap. The Bradley girls closed out the frame ahead by 10 points at 34-24.
“They made an adjustment at halftime and got Hanna (Jones) diving to the block when we were doubling Kimora. You've got to give coach Reuter and his staff credit for that,” said Williams.
The Lady Raiders heated up early in the fourth quarter as Lauren Hurst and Williams connected for treys to cut the Bearettes' lead to 36-32 with just over six minutes left to play. Bradley scored the next five points to make it a 41-32 game and held off the Lady Raiders to close out the win.
“I'm proud of my girls. We took a shot from them. We were up five at halftime, we should have been up more. Our biggest lead was 13 and we let them cut it to four. Everything tightened up a little bit, but they stayed in that zone. I was surprised they stayed in the zone as long as they did because they let us take a lot of time off the clock. By the time they came out to answer it was too late,” Reuter said. “I'm proud of my girls. We've just got to keep working and we will see them, I'm predicting at least two more times.”
The Bearettes return to the court Tuesday in their second district game hosting The Howard School. The Lady Raiders are back in action with a quick turnaround Saturday on the road at Knoxville Catholic.
“I like where we're at. They out scored us by five in the first half and they out scored us by five in the second half. That's one possession per quarter better either defensively or offensively,” Williams stated.
“We had a ton of turnovers. We had 19 turnovers. But, it's early in the season. This was a great test, a great opportunity in front of an amazing crowd that all paid $6 to watch our girls do what they love to do and watch Bradley do what they love to do.”
Cleveland boys 57, Bradley Central 46: Judah Sault had a huge night for the Blue Raiders with 22 points as Cleveland overcame 19 turnovers to pick up their first district 5-4A win of the season. Jasen Brooks followed up with 18 points and Alex Hyder added 11 to the final tally.
“It was a good win, but we've got some things we've got to clean up. We've gpt to do a better job of finishing games. But, I love my guys' effort. They played hard. They played for one another,” said Blue Raiders coach Reggie Tucker. “Our ultimate goal, we've got to clean those things up. We had 19 turnovers, eight of them in the second half. Those things we've got to lean up.”
“I feel like I didn't do a good enough job of getting the guys ready for tonight and that's on me,” Bears head coach Zach Carpenter said afterward. “We've got a lot to work on and clean up in practice. I take full responsibility for this and we'll be better next time.”
Dee Reid reached double figures for the Bears with 12 points.
Cleveland scored 10 of the first 12 points and would never trail although Bradley tied the score at 20-20 in the second quarter.
Sault powered the Raiders to an 18-9 first quarter lead with six straight points late in the frame.
“They did what they do well. They get it out. Judah Sault had an unbelievable game. He likes to rim run. He runs to the rim very well.He did that on us all night,” said Carpenter.
The Bears took control early in the second quarter piling in nine of the first 11 points. A 2-pointer by Bradley's Ramireon Taylor with just under five minutes left in the half tied the score at 20-all. The Blue Raiders picked it up fro there and used 3s from Brooks and Sault to take a 26-20 lead. The Bears manages just five points the rest of the way while the Raiders added 10 — highlighted by a controversial 3 by Brooks at the buzzer — to head into the break with a 36-28 lead.
The third quarter saw Cleveland increase the gap to 16 points with just over two minutes left and held a 48-35 lead headed into the final eight minutes.
Both teams scored just nine points in the final quarter as the Raiders moved to 5-0 on the season.
“It's good to be back home and get a win, especially a district win. It's a big game because of the next game. I understand it's a rivalry game, but understand it's a big game because of the next game, that's it. We don't get too high or get too low because of rivalry games,” said Tucker.
“We are progressing well. We had 18 turnovers our last game against a very talented team. Tonight we go into the half with six turnovers, that's not bad. The second half we just turned the ball over way too much. We could have put them away maybe in the third quarter if we don't turn it over.
The Bears goa against Howard Tuesday while the Blue Raiders travel to Knox Catholic Friday.
“They are a fast team,” Carpenter said of the raiders. “They are going to speed the game up, press and play really fast. We've got a lot to work on.”
BRADLEY CENTRAL 9 13 12 13 — 47
CLEVELAND 6 11 7 13 — 37
BRADLEY (47) - Kimora Fields 13, Carpenter 2, Brewer 7, Harmonie Ware 17, Jones 5, Phillips 3, Francis, Wilcox.
CLEVELAND (37) — A. Hurst 5, Moody, Lee 2, L. Hurst 6, Milah Williams 20, Tanner 2, Westfield, Smith, Rodriguez.
3-point goals: Bradley 4 (Ware 2, Brewer, Phillips); Cleveland 6 (Williams 5, L. Hurst).
Records: Bradley 6-0, 1-0 District 5-4A; Cleveland 5-1, 0-1.
BRADLEY CENTRAL 9 19 9 9 — 46
CLEVELAND 18 18 21 9 — 57
BRADLEY (46) — Botts 9, Carpenter 8, Daniels 2, Taylor 9, Ary 4, Dee Reed 12, Kirkpatrick 2, Brownlow, Fields.
CLEVELAND (57) — Thomas, Judah Sault 22, Jaden Brooks 18, Alex hyder 13, Leeper 2, Lambert 2, Gober, D. Adams, L. Adams.
3-point goals: Bradley 4 (Botts 2, Taylor, Reid); Cleveland 6 (Brooks 3, Sault 2, Hyder).
Records: Bradley 4-2, 0-1 District 5-4A; Cleveland 5-0, 1-0.