Presumably the technical foul called on a Cleveland player in the latter stages of the third quarter Tuesday was not a ploy to get the Blue Raiders motivated. But it seemed to work out that way.
Host East Hamilton got within a point and had the ball after Cam Montgomery made three of four free throws at the 2:52 mark of the third, but by period's end Cleveland was leading by nine and went on to register a 79-70 victory in the District 5-AAA boys' high school basketball game.
By winning, Cleveland (15-2, 5-0) sits alone atop the district standings. With East Hamilton (12-5) falling to 2-1 in the league, all teams except the Blue Raiders have at least one district loss. Ooltewah is the only team they haven't played yet in the first half of league games.
"You want to win these tough road games and then take care of your home court," Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. "If we do that we'll check off the first goal we have, and that's to qualify for the region."
Cleveland outscored the Hurricanes 13-5 in the last two and a half minutes of the third quarter and built the lead as high as 76-61 in the fourth.
"We let things we couldn't control affect us," McCowan said of his team's play before the technical foul. "I don't know why. We've played in plenty of tough environments.
"I thought we'd be a lot wiser. We're battle-tested."
East Hamilton trailed most of the first half — its largest lead was two points — but got to halftime with the score tied at 36. The Blue Raiders broke the tie on Diontae Ware's turnaround jumper in the low post and never trailed again.
East Hamilton coach Rodney English said there were some chances to draw some charges, along with not boxing out a few times, that proved to be costly late in the third quarter.
"Those kinds of plays really hurt us coming down the stretch," English said. "We had 10 turnovers in the first half. I'm not sure how many we had in the second half. I thought we just missed too many opportunities to score the ball. Every time we came down and executed we got something really good."
K.K. Curry created several problems inside for the Hurricanes, and he led the Blue Raiders with 28 points. Mullek Bradford scored 10 of his 13 in the second half, and Ware contributed 12.
Justin Dozier's 23 points paced East Hamilton. Noah Fager added 14 and DaVae Hughley chipped in with 11.
* East Hamilton girls 48, Cleveland 46: The Lady Hurricanes trailed most of the game but got it tied late and won it on Madison Hayes' rebound basket with four seconds to play.
Hayes topped East Hamilton (6-9), which at 3-0 remains unbeaten in the district along with Bradley Central, with 21 points.
Sofia Stamatiadis made four 3-point goals and scored 22 for Cleveland (8-9, 2-3) but had none in the fourth quarter, when the Lady Raiders got outscored 14-3. Emma Flowers totaled 15 points.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.