published Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Raiders tighten 5-AAA race

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    Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press -- Feb 4, 2011 Cleveland's B.J. Davis, No. 22, and Ooltewah's Ben Snider, No. 33, stretch to gain control of a loose ball during Friday's game. The Cleveland High School basketball team played against Ooltewah at Ooltewah High School on Friday night.

After Friday's development at Ooltewah, the top two places didn't change in the District 5-AAA boys' high school basketball standings, but the battle for supremacy did get a lot tighter.

By pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 71-58 victory over the host Owls, Cleveland (15-6, 8-3) maintained at least a tie for the No. 2 spot in the district race. Bradley Central and McMinn County also entered Friday's play with three league losses.

Ooltewah (19-6, 8-2) remains in first — for the time being.

"We had a game to play with," Ooltewah coach Jesse Nayadley said. "We don't now."

His Owls host McMinn County on Tuesday and play Thursday at Cleveland in a snowout makeup.

"We had to win or we had no chance at the No. 1 seed for the district tournament," Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. "That bye gets you automatically into the region tournament. We got the first part of it done."

Where Cleveland got it done was on the defensive end in the final period. Tevin Rutledge's rebound basket late in the third quarter broke a tie at 51, and as it turned out gave the Blue Raiders the lead for good. They held Ooltewah to seven points over the final 9:45.

"They were tougher than us in the fourth quarter," Nayadley said.

It didn't help that the Owls missed the first five of the six free throws they shot in the final period, and two of those were front ends of one-and-ones. They ended up 9-for-19 for the game.

"We'd been shooting them good," Nayadley said. "We missed a ton of free throws tonight, and a ton of layups. I guess you're going to have that kind of game every once in a while. It came down in the end to who wanted it more, and they did."

Cleveland got off to a 20-6 lead in the first six-plus minutes, but by the time the Owls made the first basket of the second quarter — Wesley Richey's 3-pointer from the left wing — they were back within three.

"We kind of relaxed, more than anything," McCowan said. "You cannot relax when you're playing a team like Ooltewah."

The Blue Raiders trailed 37-36 at halftime. McCowan said basically all that was talked about in the locker room was doing a better job of boxing out, noting that the Owls cashed in 11 second-shot opportunities in the first half.

Forward Jarod Rhodes led Cleveland with 20 points. Guard D.J. Bowles, a sophomore transfer from Notre Dame who McCowan said is becoming more comfortable running the fast-paced offense, added 15 points.

"It was played at a tempo we both like to play," Nayadley said. "They had an early run. We hit them back and had the lead at halftime. It was pretty much even tilll the end of the third quarter. Then we didn't make another run."

Rondezz Mee scored 12 points for the Blue Raiders and B.J. Davis had 10.

Andre Moton's 16 points were high for the Owls. Jervon Johnson's 14 points included two 3-point goals, but he was 0-for-5 from the free-throw line. Richey scored 13.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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