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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland High School boys' basketball team got off to a hot start Friday night, both in the game and in the district standings.

The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 16-3 lead in the first six minutes of the game and never let up, defeating East Hamilton 66-42 at home in the first District 5-AAA game of the season.

"I thought our kids were very focused from the start," Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. "They took great shots. We got off to a great start and then played pretty comfortable with the lead."

Cleveland (2-1) used a suffocating defense for fast-break opportunities and easy scores throughout but also showed the ability to get to the basket in half-court sets when the game slowed down.

The Blue Raiders had a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. East Hamilton (4-2, 0-1) did not make a field goal in the quarter, with all seven points coming from the free-throw line.

JaCobi Wood had seven points in the first four minutes for Cleveland and led all scorers with 17 for the game, while Dionte Ware had 14.

The Hurricanes finally made a field goal 45 seconds into the second quarter, going on a 9-5 run to open the period as the Blue Raiders got into foul trouble. Ware and Deontae Davis each had three fouls in the first half.

Cleveland's reserves were able to maintain the lead, however, as they built the lead back to 13 and led 31-18 at halftime.

"It was important to get off to the good start because we got into such foul trouble," McCowan said. "Holding them to 18 in foul trouble was good because we could go in at halftime, calm down, and they weren't in the bonus anymore."

In the third quarter it was East Hamilton's turn for a fast start, scoring the first six points and cutting Cleveland's lead to 33-26 after just two minutes.

After trading baskets over the next few minutes, the Blue Raiders closed the quarter out on a 13-2 run, building the lead to 21 points as they cruised through the final eight minutes to victory.

"I think it's good that we have this kind of district game early because it challenges us," East Hamilton coach Rodney English said after a lengthy postgame talk with his players. "We did not do a good job tonight of stepping up to the challenge."

The Hurricanes were led by Justin Dozier with 11 points and DaVae Hughley with 10.

The victory was the 200th for McCowan's career, with 190 coming at Cleveland.

Cleveland takes on Bearden on Monday before two more district games at Walker Valley and Soddy Daisy, while East Hamilton travels to Hardin Valley Academy and Soddy Daisy.

Contact Kevin Llewallyn at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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