EVENSVILLE, Tenn. -In his first season as starting point guard for the Cleveland Blue Raiders, D.J. Bowles has played the role of distributor.
But the sophomore transfer's 26-point average as a freshman at Notre Dame was no fluke.
Bowles had a game-high 22 points Saturday as the Blue Raiders advanced to the Region 3-AAA final Tuesday with a 71-67 victory over Ooltewah.
McMinn County's Cedric Nevins scored on a drive with 1.3 seconds to go to give the Cherokees a 48-46 victory over Cookeville.
"Sometimes I feel like I have to distribute the ball around, but sometimes they need me to score," Bowles said. "It's been a big adjustment
to be point guard this year. It's a different role for me, but I'm glad I was able to help the team get a win."
The Raiders will make their third sectional appearance in Jason McCowan's four seasons as head coach.
"Any time you're in the final 16, you feel as though you've accomplished something,"
"We're proud of that, but we still have to buckle down and play Tuesday."
In the nightcap, the Cherokees overcame a pro-Cookeville crowd on Nevins' drive after a McMinn timeout with eight seconds to go.
"That play scares me because you have to be able to get the ball in and get it to the guy you want to get it to," McMinn coach Keith Elliott
said. "Cedric is smart enough to make the move at the right time, and he has great body control in the air."
In the girls' bracket, Bradley Central held Walker Valley scoreless in the fourth quarter and moved onto Tuesday's region championship
game with a 39-32 victory at Rhea County.
McMinn's Lady Cherokees edged Cleveland 47-46, earning their first region final appearance since 2003.
"I thought we got them out of their comfort zone," Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. "I couldn't predict that we'd hold them scoreless, but
we couldn't match up with their 4-out alignment, so we chose the lesser of two evils and it worked."
Bradley's win ended a nine-game losing streak to the Lady Mustangs.
Kayla Beavers had 12 points to lead the Bearettes (26-5), while Taylor Neuharth had 11 for Walker Valley (26-3).
The Lady Cherokees let an eight-point lead evaporate when Cleveland tied the game at 40 on two free throws by Qetuwrah Abdullah-
Muhammad. Behind six consecutive points from Haley Ward, they took a 46-42 advantage with 24.6 seconds to go.
Ward's 21 points led McMinn (14-18), while Abdullah-Muhammad and Sydnie Anderson had 12 apiece for Cleveland (15-14).