The Cleveland boys and girls basketball teams led for much of their respective contests against close rival West Johnston Thursday night. Both Rams protected big first half leads to earn the sweep over the Wildcats.
Garrett Davenport poured in 23 points and Tyler Keenan added 20 more to help the Cleveland boys’ team take down West Johnston 74-57, earning its 10th consecutive win over the Wildcats.
The hot-shooting of Wildcats’ guard William Bowser cut into the sizable lead the Rams constructed in the first half but Cleveland had an answer every time West Johnston drew close. The Rams also converted at the free throw line late going 11-for-13 in the fourth quarter alone.
In the girls’ game, the Rams methodically wore down West Johnston for the 53-26 victory as the Wildcats had a difficult time getting into their offense early on due to Cleveland’s full-court pressure.
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The Rams gradually extended its 11-point halftime advantage as nine different players scored for the visitors.
Although both the Cleveland and West Johnston girls basketball teams have had to look to underclassmen to step in and play prominent roles after losing key players to graduation last season, the Rams still boast a very talented and experienced frontcourt.
It was that frontcourt that wore down the Wildcats (2-4) and helped Cleveland reach .500 on the year.
Junior forward Kayljn Williamson had 11 points and 10 rebounds, senior Tehya Lee contributed 10 points and five rebounds and Jaeda Scott also pulled down 10 rebounds on a night in which the Rams presented matchup problems for a young West Johnston squad.
“Any time you play Cleveland, you’re going to have big, tall and quick girls and we just couldn’t stop them,” West Johnston coach Laura Jefferson said. “We couldn’t play zone and we couldn’t match up man-to-man.”
Junior Anya Cooper came off the bench to provide even another source of offense and rebounding as the transfer tallied nine points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“We’re young and growing and tonight we took a lot of steps,” said Cleveland coach Chris Danehower. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, it matters whether we can be consistent. Tonight, was probably our most consistent overall game.
“To be 4-4, at this point, is really a positive as we move towards conference season.”
The Wildcats’ senior guard Nadia Blevins went for 10 points while Meaghan Bennett pitched in with six.
The Cleveland boys basketball team built a 15-point advantage in the opening half against their close rivals from down the road but an improved Wildcats team looked to poised to make a run at the Rams on a couple occasions in the second half.
Each time West Johnston drew close, however, the Rams responded as Garrett Davenport and Tyler Keenan hit shot after shot to quell the Wildcats’ potential comeback bids.
At the 6:35 mark of the third quarter, Tony Mack’s dish to Jakim Graham in transition cut the lead to 53-44 but Keenan responded on the other end with conversion in close only to be followed by one of Davenport’s five three-pointers on the night as Cleveland improved to 3-5.
“Every time we had a chance to make a run, Cleveland hit a shot,” West Johnston coach Scotty Williams said. “Davenport hit his shots and had a great night and they did a great job getting him looks. They also did a great job going after second-chance shots when he did miss.”
Davenport connected on 5-of-9 shots behind the 3-point line. Jamar Posten led Cleveland (3-5) with 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, to go with his eight points.
“It’s a big game for us because we know the players on their team,” Keenan said of the rivalry. “It’s competitive in every sport – football, baseball and basketball. It’s just a big game.”
Bowser led the Wildcats (2-4) with 16 points. Jakim Graham added nine while both Andrik Cole and Erron Davis totaled eight points apiece for West Johnston.
“It’s a rivalry game and obviously, we don’t want to go out here and lose,” said Davenport. “I just think we play great, team basketball. Yeah, Tyler and I made our shots but we wouldn’t be open if it wasn’t for our team. Everybody just wanted to go out there and win and we picked it up on the defensive end.”