When the Cleveland boys’ team took a 42-32 lead with about five minutes to go against Corinth Holders on Friday night, it looked like the Rams were heading for a clean sweep of the varsity Two Rivers 3A Conference games.
A furious rally by the Pirates led to a 52-49 win over Cleveland, salvaging a split of the twin bill.
The Rams built a big lead in the girls’ game en route to a 50-42 win — a victory that gives them sole possession of second place in the conference standings.
If Corinth Holders could have began the game with about two minutes left in the first quarter, it may have won.
Instead, Cleveland seized command from the opening tip, jumping out to a 13-0 lead it never relinquished.
“We really did a good job early of jumping on them,” Cleveland coach Chris Danehower said. “We had a couple of good, hard practices this week and that kind of got us going.”
On the defensive end, Cleveland (10-9, 4-1) did a good job of surrounding Corinth Holders’ Melanie Tola in the post, forcing her teammates to take jumpers instead.
“We clogged it up,” Danehower said. “We switched defenses up. I’m just proud of them. They did a great job. At the end, we had a lot of young kids in there. So, we have to learn how to do stuff like that. It’s good to get out to a big lead, we’ve just got to finish stronger in the fourth quarter.”
The Pirates (7-9, 3-2) found themselves in a 25-10 hole at halftime, and trailed 41-22 after three quarters. Still, they outscored the Rams 20-9 in the final eight minutes to make the final margin more respectable.
Liyah Moore led Cleveland with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Shaniya Taylor added 11.
Mikayla Thompson led all scorers with 16 for Corinth Holders while Tola chipped in 13.
Coming into Friday night’s game, Corinth Holders was looking to get over the .500 mark in league play, while Cleveland was seeking its first Two Rivers 3A win.
The Rams trailed, 18-16, at halftime, but were effective in keeping the pace of the game slow. Coach John Jacobs’ team mixed and matched defenses, denied the post and kept the contest a half-court game.
In the third quarter, Cleveland’s offense caught up with its defense.
The Rams (5-14, 0-5) went on a 17-5 run, sparked by 3-pointers from Garrett Davenport, Tyler Keenan and Hamilton Harrison, to take a 37-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
The lead was still 10, at 42-32, with about 5:30 left in regulation.
That’s when the Pirates (5-11, 3-2) applied their full-court press. That defense forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers, which led to plenty of extra possessions.
“The last three minutes of the game is the way we need to play the other 29,” Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis said. “We can’t wait until the end for a sense of urgency to finally kick in. … We’re a better rebounding team than we showed the first 29 minutes of the game. We got every rebound the last three minutes.”
A Warren Ramsey 3-pointer brought the Pirates within three, at 45-42, and Demorris Lee had a steal and a layup that made it a one-point game near the two-minute mark.
Trey Adams tied it with a free throw with 1:25 to go, but the Rams regained the lead when Elijah Haynes beat the press after a slick pass from Keenan with 40 seconds left.
Adams tied the game again on the free-throw line with 21.1 seconds to go, and then the Pirates got three straight offensive rebounds on missed free throws.
Adams made three more from the charity stripe in those extra trips to make it 52-49, and Cleveland couldn’t get a shot off in the final five seconds.
Jacobs declined comment after the game.
Adams finished with 15 points for Corinth Holders while Johnavan Neal added 10.
Haynes (13), Keenan (12) and Davenport (11) all wound up in double figures for the Rams.