CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland girls' basketball coach Mindy Kiser thought she did a good job of pumping up her Lady Raiders before their District 5-AAA tournament semifinal against McMinn County. She had visions of a fired-up team coming out ready to play.
That's not what she received, but what she got was good enough.
The Lady Raiders posted a workmanlike 50-41 victory over the Lady Cherokees to advance to Monday's championship game, where they will face top rival Bradley Central.
Bradley's Bearettes defeated Walker Valley 53-36 in the day's first semifinal, led by Brooke Copeland's 10 points and 12 rebounds. Rebecca Reuter had 12 points and three blocks, while Brandi Whitted added 11 points.
Bradley (24-2) jumped to a 16-2 advantage and flirted with blowing the game wide open on many occasions. The final margin was sizable but could have been more.
"We have to learn to be able to put teams away," Bearettes coach Jason Reuter said, "but we did what we had to do defensively to get the win."
Jaclyn Griffith led the Lady Mustangs (15-13) with 12 points.
Cleveland (18-8) had a 10-0 run in the third quarter, breaking a 19-all tie. During that frame, McMinn's Alisa Guardiola suffered her fourth foul at the 4:35 mark, and the Lady Raiders outscored the Lady Cherokees 11-2 until her return at the start of the fourth quarter.
"We had some breaks in the third quarter," Kiser said. "It's playoff basketball. I thought we were loose and ready to play, but we were still able to hold on."
McMinn's Rachel Burke made three 3-pointers in a two-minute stretch late in the game, and Haley Ward hit another that trimmed the Cleveland lead to 46-41 with 25 seconds remaining.
Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad , who led Cleveland with 14 points and 10 rebounds, hit a pair of free throws and Jenna Scoggins added a layup at the buzzer for the final margin.
Sydnie Anderson had 12 points for the Lady Raiders.
"We built a lead and were able to hold onto it, but McMinn hit some big shots and never quit," Kiser said.
Burke had 15 points to lead the Lady Cherokees (18-8), with Ward adding 14.