Cleveland Closes Out Walker Valley In Closing Minutes

Lady Blue Raiders Advance To Region 3-4A Finals With 60-57 Win

  • Monday, February 26, 2024
  • Richard Roberts

Walker Valley battled back from an early 11 point deficit and fought to a four point lead late in the fourth quarter, but it was Cleveland that took the lead back in the closing minutes and held on to defeat the Lady Mustangs 60-57 in the Region 3-4A semifinal Monday night inside “The Jim” at Bradley Central High School.

The loss ended the season for the Lady Mustangs, who finished up with an even record of 14-14.

The Lady Raiders move on to take on No. 1-ranked Bradley Central in Wednesday's championship game at 7 p.m., at Bradley. The winner will host Saturday's sectional game, also at 7 with the winner advancing to the state tournament. The loser of Wednesday's matchup will travel to the Region 4 champ with a state tournament berth on the line.

“I'm just so thankful for our kids just busting their tails. We got down late and faced some adversity. Calls were not going our way, we couldn't buy a basket and we were in foul trouble,” said LadyRaiders head coach Bianca Hensley postgame. “We switched out defense into a 1-2-1-1 and it caused them a lot of issues. That's when the momentum kind of shifted to our side and our kids just made big play after big play. I'm excited for our kids and we're ready for the next step.”

Lauren Hurst again was huge for the Lady Raiders (22-8) with 17 points. Illianis Rodriguez followed up with 12 and Tamia Tanner ended her night with 10.

Walker Valley's Madison Bischof led all scoring with 18 points. Teammate Jalaya Lindsey came through with 14 for the Lady Mustangs.

“That's all we asked of the girls is just to battle. We said it would be (scoring) runs. We've used the roller coaster analogy all year long and that's what that was as well,” said a disappointed, but proud Lady Mustangs head coach Paul Sausville. “But, it was a little bit of everything. We weren't really surprised by nothing. It was hard to play that hard with those kinds of runs, have a chance and come up short. I'm so proud of them. We couldn't have asked for any more effort. It was a good game. We were right there.”

Cleveland was in command early building a 19-9 lead late in the first quarter. The Lady Mustangs fired up for eight unanswered points in the final two minutes and trailed 22-17 after a Tanner 3-pointer for the Lady Raiders in the closing seconds.


The second quarter was an even fight with Walker Valley staying close trailing by six at halftime, 33-27.

The Lady Mustangs opened the third with a 3 from Bischof and a 2-pointer off the fingertips of Elissa Earls that cut the Cleveland lead to 33-32. The Mustangs and Raiders squared off the rest ot the quarter trading the lead six times before Cleveland opened a 45-39 advantage. Sariyah Cox closed out the scoring for Walker Valley with a basket to cut the lead to 45-41.

The Lady Fillies charged out of the gate to open the final eight minutes with a 7-0 run catching and passing Cleveland in the process to move out front 48-45. Minutes later the Lady Raiders rallied back to forge ahead, 55-51, on the strength of treys by Callie Brewer and Rodriguez wrapped around a steal and short jumper by Emma Smith.

Free throws from Walker Valley's Bischof and Lindsey cut it to 55-54 with two minutes left to play. Cleveland used the free-throw line to move ahead 57-54 with 1:20 to go. The Lady Raiders capitalized on a missed Walker Valley 3-point attempt to move ahead 59-54 on a basket by Brewer with 17 seconds left. Bischof lifted in a 3 for the Lady Mustangs with five seconds to go to make it 59-57. Cleveland's Smith put the finishing touch on the night with a final trip to the line to close out the 60-57 victory.

“We will build. We've got some girls who are coming back. We'll miss five seniors. Those five seniors are a big deal. They've been a big deal since we took over 11 months ago,”said Sausville. “But, we've got a bunch of girls who just got that experience right there, that big game region semifinal that the Lady Mustangs haven't been to in a long time. That's exciting moving forward. We'll see what we can do this simmer and and improve.”

The Lady Raiders now turn their attention to Wednesday and the upcoming matchup against the Bearettes.

“Give credit to coach Sausville and Walker Valley. Both teams battled tremendously. Both teams should have had a chance to continue. I'm thankful we're on the winning side, but those kids battled,” said Hensley. “I just can't tell you how proud I am of my girls and now we're ready for a region championship and punch our ticket to the state.”















WALKER VALLEY (57) — Madison Bischof 18, Jalaya Lindsey 14, Poe 4, Woods 5, Earls 2, Young 9, Cox 5, Pierce.

CLEVELAND (60) — Lauren Hurst 17, Illianis Rodriguez 12, Tamiah Tanner 10, Brewer 9, Westfield 2, Smith 7, Copeland 3, Patterson, Smith.

3-point goals: Walker Valley 4 (Bischof 3, Lindsey); Cleveland 8 (Rodriguez 3, Tanner 2, Hurst, Brewer, Copeland).

Free throws: Walker Valley 11 of 18, Cleveland 14 of 23.

Records: Walker Valley 14-14; Cleveland 22-8.


(Email Richard Roberts at



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