CLEVELAND, Tenn. — There is no doubt in JaCobi Wood's teammates' minds that their senior point guard is the best high school basketball player in the state.
Cleveland remained undefeated with Wood in the starting lineup as the TSSAA's top-ranked Class AAA team created history with Monday night's dominant 81-66 sectional victory over Siegel at Raider Arena. That sends the Blue Raiders (33-1) to the state tournament in Murfreesboro for the second season in a row.
"JaCobi is a great point guard and the best player I have seen in the state this year," fellow senior Mo Schramm said after leading the Blue Raiders with 24 points and 11 rebounds. "I love playing with him. He is a great guy and one of the most unselfish players I have ever seen. He doesn't (just) deserve it — he's earned Mr. Basketball. I love him."
Wood and Schramm dazzled from the start as both hit a pair of opening-quarter 3s and had a sixth sense for where each other would be on the offensive end.
Cleveland (33-1) controlled the game from start to finish, taking a 23-12 lead when Michael Dale scored his sixth point with a putback at the first-quarter buzzer.
On a mission to help his program win a state championship for the first time since 1997 — a Blue Raiders team that went 33-2 — Wood finished with 23 points and eight assists.
The Belmont signee made behind-the-back passes to teammates look easy. Wood also regathered his shot in mid-flight to hit a difficult running layup and then put a perfect touch on his crossover and stepback midrange jumper to build a 60-41 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
"We all just go out there and play together as a team and compete at a high level," said Wood, who will make an early trip to Murfreesboro for tonight's Mr. Basketball selection. "We are all in this together and locked in. We want to win a state championship and won't be just satisfied with just going."
While Siegel's Jaylan Wetzel put on a Stephen Curry-like performance with 31 points and seven 3-pointers, the Blue Raiders hit one big shot after another as they passed the ball with precision and made few mistakes.
Kley McGowan rose high for a two-handed slam on a fast break and nailed one of the Blue Raiders' nine 3s from the left corner to create a 52-32 margin with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
Grant Hurst took away any remaining Stars hope as he hit a pair of long-range shots in the fourth quarter in which he scored eight of his 14 points.
"During the last two minutes I got to thinking about day one," first-year head coach Reggie Tucker said. "They are getting to see all the results of their hard work. This is the first time in school history we have made the state tournament in back-to-back years. And we just tied the all-time record at Cleveland with 33 wins.
"These kids are making history every time they step on the court from here on out. I am so proud of our guys. They are a great group to teach. They want a gold ball more than anything, and to coach them is a blessing."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.
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