This story was updated at 9:17 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, with quotes from Kara Williams and Bailey Anderson.
Wearing a "Black Mamba" Kobe Bryant custom jacket postgame, JaCobi Wood said he and his teammates agree that their Cleveland boys' basketball team has yet to reach its full potential.
A scary thought, as the state's No. 1-ranked Blue Raiders improved to 16-0 and 4-0 in District 5-AAA play Friday night with a 71-56 home victory over East Hamilton.
Wood scored 26 points, including 12 in a row in the third quarter, which he closed with a long 3-point basket and a jump-step to the hoop to score left-handed through contact.
"I haven't reached my full potential yet, and neither has our team," Wood said. "But we keep getting better and better. Our off days — we don't have off days. We use those to get in the gym. I am doing everything I can to make my brother proud. As a family we all just work together."
For Cleveland, success has come through not only its star point guard but its interchangeable talent.
Junior guard Grant Hurst scored 11 first-quarter points and finished with 21 and five assists, while Mo Schramm added 19 points and 10 rebounds. In one case Hurst sprinted in for a tip-in off the backboard, and he pump-faked a defender for a open 3 to end the first half with a 35-23 lead.
"We have four guys who can score 20 points on any given night," said Blue Raiders coach Reggie Tucker, who also raved about junior Kley McGowan drawing more than 40 charges the last two seasons combined. "When our guys are hitting shots, it opens up the Red Sea for JaCobi, because nobody can guard him one-on-one.
"Mo and Kley bring so much besides scoring for us. Mo had three points and 16 rebounds in one game. They both play the game really well even when they don't lead us in scoring. We are not 16-0 without those guys' effort on defense."
East Hamilton's Haynes Eller scored a team-high 15 points and hit three treys, while Darwin Randolph scored six quick points in the first quarter and totaled 14.
Not focused on keeping the No. 1 status in the polls, Cleveland looks to keep getting better through tough practices.
"We are not changing our work ethic or the way we prepare for a game," Schramm said. "We practice hard to get where we want to go. Our practices are tougher than games. We play better in practice, too. We still haven't hit our full potential."
* Lady Raiders 61, Lady Hurricanes 52 (2 OT)
Cleveland's Kara Williams sent a pinpoint lead pass over the top to senior Bailey Anderson for a layup and a 46-44 lead with three seconds left in regulation, but Mississippi State signee Madison Hayes flashed downcourt to hit a contested running layup and force extra time.
Hayes scored all of her team's eight points in the fourth quarter and had five rebounds in the period as well.
Neither team scored in the first overtime, but Cleveland (12-5, 3-1) pulled away in the second.
Anderson made a nice move into the paint and then pump-faked her defender and hit the go-ahead basket with 3:11 left. Soon after, she drew the defense to her in the lane and kicked out to Williams, who drained her fifth 3 of the game.
"Bailey is great at driving and kicking," Williams said. "To come through in clutch moments tonight was really exciting for us all. We were really focused defensively too and this is a big win for us ."
Mariyah Person sank six free throws in the second overtime and totaled 16 points and four steals.
"This win was all about guts, all about heart and all about want-to," Cleveland coach Tony Williams said. "It was about who could make the gutsy plays. They turned it up, and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Hayes scored 20 points but fouled out with the game tied at 46.
Williams also scored 20 and Anderson had all 12 of her points after halftime for the Lady Raiders.
"I knew we had it in us and we could do it," said Anderson, who helped add a signature victory to Cleveland's list which includes road wins against Cookeville and Stewarts Creek. "This was a big step for us and we all trusted in one another to get it done."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.