As one would expect in a burgeoning rivalry, the Cleveland boys and girls basketball teams found themselves tested mightily as they squared off against Corinth Holders Tuesday night at the midway point of the Two Rivers 3A Conference season.
In a classic contest, the Cleveland girls came from behind to force overtime before putting on a clinic at the free throw line in the extra session to escape with a 61-52 road victory.
After the Pirates missed out on a chance to put away the Rams near the end of regulation with a shot from close range, Cleveland outscored the Pirates 11-2 in the extra period to improve to 17-2 on the season and a perfect 5-0 in the Two Rivers Conference.
In the boys matchup, the Rams closed the opening quarter on a 13-0 run to take control of the game early and came up big down the stretch to hold off the Pirates to win 66-56.
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Corinth Holders whittled what was once a 13-point Cleveland lead down to a 54-51 with three minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. However, the Rams went on a 12-5 run from there to close the game out.
Cleveland girls erase deficit to win
In the girls’ contest, both teams traded runs as Cleveland stormed out to an early 10-point lead before falling behind by as many as 13 in the third quarter when the Pirates’ Maddy Gladwell and Shaniya Taylor each got hot from three-point range to build a 40-27 lead.
It was once the Rams were behind by a baker’s dozen, however, that they started to get cooking offensively, using a small lineup to get some fresh legs into the game.
Cleveland ended the period of a 9-1 run and continued to chip away at the lead until Myrayna Watkins tied the game on two different occasions down the stretch.
Watkins finished with 21 points and four key steals for Cleveland as the senior recalled losing to Corinth Holders the previous season and not wanting to have those same feelings again.
“We started having flashbacks to last year because we lost,” said Watkins, referring to one of the Rams’ two defeats at the hands of the Pirates last season. “I just kept repeating, ‘We’re not leaving without a win’ and I guess it just kind of clicked for everybody.”
In overtime, the Pirates took the quick lead on a Melanie Tola layup but missed free throws and turnovers allowed Cleveland to score the game’s final 11 points to remain unbeaten in conference.
Able to get out in transition against the bigger Rams was key for Corinth Holders (8-10, 2-3) as Shaniya Taylor and Maddy Gladwell did much of the damage for the Pirates. Taylor victimized the usually stingy Cleveland defense for 26 points and Gladwell adding 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting from downtown. Tola chipped in with nine points and 12 rebounds.
“Playing Cleveland, it’s either going to bring out the best or it’s going to bring out the worst just because of the rivalry,” said Corinth Holders coach Brandy Smith. “We knew they were going to make a push; we just were hoping we could come out on top on the other side of that.”
For Cleveland, in addition to Watkins, three other players ended their night in double figures. Miranda Hinton had 12 points, Amber Scott had 12 and Tehya Lee posted 11 points for the game.
“I’m really proud of how we just came together and persevered,” Cleveland coach Chris Danehower said. “We haven’t had a lot of close games, but the ones we’ve had, we’ve had to pull them out like that.”
Rams fend off Pirate boys’ comeback
After closing out the opening quarter in convincing fashion, the Rams boys basketball team held a double-digit lead for much of the second and third quarters.
Jordan Neal came off the bench to spark Corinth Holders, however, as did Trey Adams who brought the Pirates to within three points at the 3:16 mark of the fourth quarter.
Cleveland responded on its next two possessions, However, as point guard Tanner Costine penetrated the Corinth Holders defense and found Noah Barnes for a pair of baskets to again stretch the lead out to a safe operating distance for the Rams (7-12, 2-3).
“I’ve got a lot of faith in Tanner; he’s a senior,” said Cleveland coach John Jacobs. “I want the ball in his hands while we’re trying to do stuff down the stretch because he’s so hard to guard. It’s nice to have someone like him to handle the ball at the end of the game.”
Costine led the Rams with 15 points. Landry Moore pitched in with 10 while Barnes contributed nine points off the bench.
Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis applauded the effort of his team in the second half but is looking for more consistency from the Pirates as lapses, such as they demonstrated at the end of the first quarter, have hurt Corinth Holders this season.
“At the end of the first quarter…that and the missed free throws are the difference in the game,” said Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis. “It’s hard to make comebacks when you’re not knocking down your shots from the charity stripe.”
Corinth Holders hit just 5-of-15 foul shots for the game.
Adams and Coby Cox led the Pirates (10-8, 2-3) with 12 points apiece while Neal’s eight points and five rebounds all in the second half started the rally.