CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Walker Valley guard Tucker Godfrey definitely made an impact on Rhea County during the teams' two regular-season meetings. Enough that when the teams played Friday in the District 5-AAA basketball quarterfinals, the Golden Eagles put a box-and-one on him.
It was a look he hadn't seen before -- and didn't recognize. But it did not faze him.
Godfrey led a balanced scoring attack with 16 points, and the Mustangs ended the game on a 13-1 run to defeat Rhea 59-54 and advance to the semifinal round, where they will face Ooltewah at 6 this evening at Cleveland High.
The Walker Valley girls made it a clean sweep over Rhea, defeating the Lady Golden Eagles 52-48, with Jaclyn Griffith pacing three Lady Mustangs in double figures with 16 points. The Lady Mustangs (15-13) trailed by 10 at halftime, but a flurry of 3s -- they hit 10 for the game -- put them in front, and one by Victoria Jones late in the game gave them the lead for good.
"We finally starting playing defense and boxing out," Walker Valley girls' coach Jessica Stone said. "We weren't doing things we had worked on the past six or seven games, and we went back to what worked for us -- which was being more patient on offense and making better decisions."
The Walker Valleyboys dug themselves a hole early, falling behind by 11 early in the second quarter. They rallied to cut the deficit to 25-21 at the break, then took their first lead -- 34-32 -- on a 3-pointer by Godfrey. It was part of an 11-2 run that stretched the lead to 40-33 late in the third quarter.
Rhea's Dimitrius Patterson was called for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter, attempting to block a Dustin Swafford dunk attempt. Swafford landed hard on his back and left the court but eventually returned.
Walker Valley led by four at the time of the injury, and a free throw by Jackson Brownfield -- subbing for Swafford -- bumped it to five, but then Rhea seized the momentum, scoring 12 points in a row for a seven-point edge with 3:07 remaining.
"That was a crucial moment for us," Godfrey said. "Dustin is a big part of this team, and after that play, there was a lot of drama; both teams were talking and we ended up slacking on defense a little bit."
During their final spurt, the Mustangs forced five turnovers in a minute and a half. After a couple of lead changes and a tie, Godfrey put his team up to stay with 18.7 seconds to go. Caio Hysinger then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled, and he and Godfrey salted the game away with three free throws in the final seconds.
Hysinger and Lukas Korn scored 14 points each for Walker Valley, while Austin Harwood -- who also guarded Rhea star Jalen Smith for most of the game -- had 10. Hysinger also added nine assists and six steals, while Korn had nine rebounds and five blocks.
Nick McWherter scored 20 points for Rhea. Smith finished with 13 despite not hitting a field goal until 5:46 remained in the game.
"We've had games like that all year," Rhea coach Mike Phillips said. "We wouldn't blow teams out and we didn't get blown out. We are building a foundation here, and this year we've established what this program is going to be about."