With a lot of new players being worked into new roles this season, the Ooltewah boys' basketball team is a work in progress. But despite losing three starters off a state-tournament team, the Owls still can score.
Ooltewah used a huge third-quarter run to erase a halftime deficit against Hardin Valley and leveled its record at 1-1 with a 79-66 win.
Jacqueze Robinson led the Owls with 19 points, while Ben Snider added 18 and Antonio Jackson contributed 12 points and 11 steals. The Owls, who outscored Hardin Valley 33-10 in the third quarter, were outrebounded 29-15 but forced 30 turnovers.
Ooltewah turned the ball over only three times in the final 16 minutes, so the biggest adjustment coach Jesse Nayadley made was to stress the ability to hold onto the ball.
"A lot of our turnovers were in transition. We'd have 2-on-1 and 3-on-1 opportunities and would try to make too good of a pass," Nayadley said. "In the second half, we started to make the easy pass and scored. We took it in strong and made layups."
The Owls also adjusted their defense in the second half, willing to concede the big rebounding advantage and take more chances for steals and scores. Hardin Valley's combination of Zak Carter and Jalen Carter (no relation) combined for 43 points and 20 rebounds -- nine offensive.
Down 35-24 at halftime, the Owls used an 18-2 run to start the third quarter. They stretched the lead to double digits on a steal and layup by Jarek Boyd and led by 12 going into the final quarter.
The Hawks (1-3) closed to within four on a short jumper by Jalen Carter with 4:45 remaining, but they never got closer. Jackson had a couple of steals that he converted into layups, and Robinson hit 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:09.
Zak Carter finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks for the Hawks, while Jalen Carter had 19 points and seven rebounds, but their team was guilty of 16 turnovers in the second half.
"We just didn't do a good job of focusing on the action. We focused too much on the goal," said Hardin Valley coach Keith Galloway, who prepped at Lookout Valley. "We had a plan coming in to concentrate on one pass at a time, because if we win possessions, we win the game.
"I thought we played well, but Ooltewah's good. You have to give credit to them -- they hit their free throws down the stretch."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.