Cleveland’s girls basketball team took over sole possession of first place in the Two Rivers 3A Conference on Tuesday night with a 64-45 victory over Erwin Triton and a little help from South Johnston.
The Rams (19-4 overall) entered the evening tied for first place with Triton and Corinth Holders. Cleveland’s victory and a South Johnston win over Corinth Holders put the Rams in first place at 6-1 in the league with three conference games remaining. Triton dropped into a second-place tie with Corinth Holders at 5-2.
Cleveland turned up the heat in the second half to pull away from the Hawks, who led 26-24 at halftime. The Rams nearly equaled their first half scoring in the third period, cranking out 22 points to take a 46-35 lead at the end of the third period.
“We weren’t executing our plays (in the first half),” Cleveland coach Chris Danehower said. “Once we started the ball reversal and skipping it over the top and getting it inside and penetrating, we started scoring.
“And defensively we started clicking .. . the way we have been clicking the past three games. We are really just doing a good job of jumping in there and getting to the pass. I’m really proud of their effort. Tonight I thought was a good team win.”
The Rams played the passing lanes and came up with turnover after turnover in the third period. Their quick-handed guards were simply too much for Triton to handle.
Myrayna Watkins led Cleveland with 17 points, Miranda Hinton added 15 and Brittany Preston had 14.
Hinton, a junior guard, was one of the defensive standouts. During one stretch in the fourth quarter, she stole the ball and took it the other way for a layup twice in four Triton possessions. On the second steal and fast break, she was fouled and converted the 3-point play to push Cleveland’s advantage to 59-41 with three minutes left in the game.
The Rams got productions from their bench. Starter Amber Scott, a 5-10 junior forward, went out with an injury early in the second half.
“We put (the reserves) in there and they didn’t blink,” Danehower said. “They went in there and played great. Skyler Allen did a great job off the bench getting rebounds and just being aggressive. Freshman Kailin Williamson also did a great job of getting some rebounds.
“That’s our team. We just have people that can come in fill their roles. We made some mistakes in the second quarter and we overcame that. It was a great win for us.”
Triton coach Keith Howard was disappointed in his team’s effort.
“We just didn’t do a very good job of taking care of the basketball,” Howard said. “We didn’t do a good job of playing defense. We always focus on defense and tonight we didn’t have good defensive effort and it showed in the outcome of the game.”
Triton (11-8, 5-2) was led by Jenae Harvey with 11 points and Tarica Worney with 10.
But this was a night for Cleveland, which emerged as the team in the driver’s seat in the Two Rivers 3A.