News-Star: Sports

The Rams bounce back

Cleveland’s Skyler Allen (44) puts up a shot against South Johnston defenders Michaela Cook (12) and Anna Webster (25).
Cleveland’s Skyler Allen (44) puts up a shot against South Johnston defenders Michaela Cook (12) and Anna Webster (25). newsobserver.com

Cleveland’s girls basketball team rebounded from a tough loss with a convincing victory over conference rival South Johnston on Tuesday night.

The Rams, who lost in overtime at Corinth Holders by three points last Friday to fall back into a tie for first place in the Two Rivers 3A Conference, rolled to a 53-35 victory over South Johnston to remain tied for first place in the league with one game left in the regular season.

“It was a tough loss,” Cleveland coach Chris Danhower said. “I told them, ‘We can’t let one loss turn into two.’ It started with the seniors and the other upperclassmen tonight. They just brought it. I felt tonight we just came out with an intensity that was different.

“The first couple of (South Johnston) possessions, Alliyah Sands had a couple of steals and that really set the tone for us.”

It was Senior Night for Cleveland, the final regular-season game of the season at home.

Skyler Allen, a 6-foot senior, was a force inside for the Rams (18-5, 7-2 Two Rivers), scoring all 10 of her points in the first half. Junior forward Myrayna Watkins also had 10.

Cleveland took charge in the second quarter, expanding an 11-8 lead at the end of the first period to a 24-13 advantage by halftime. Allen had two putback baskets after grabbing rebounds and Brittany Preston also scored on a follow shot.

“We did a good job on the boards,” Danhower said. “I thought all our big girls rebounded well. Allen did a great job. She can do a lot of things inside, especially when we are playing zone. She is just aggressive and goes up and gets the ball.”

The Rams’ zone was particularly effective in the first half, limiting South Johnston (14-8, 4-5) almost exclusively to outside shots. The Trojans hit a pair of 3-pointers, but missed their final four attempts from beyond the arc in the first half.

“I thought defensively we talked really well,” Danhower said. “We gave a couple of shots in the first quarter that we should have challenged a little better. But after that we really buckled down and defended their shooters and made sure their non-shooters didn’t catch the ball in the paint and do something with it.

“We made them work for everything. That is what we try to do, challenge every shot. They may make some, but if we do a good job on the boards we will be OK.”

Junior guard Anna Webster led South Johnston with a game-high 16 points.

“Our outside game, our heart and our hustle have carried us (this season),” South Johnston coach Ronda Langdon-Johnson said. “If we don’t have anybody who is hot from the outside it kills us. We are just so out-sized. We didn’t work for position tonight, we gave them some second shots and we didn’t get any second shots.

“We just didn’t look like ourselves. We like to run the ball and we didn’t run the ball tonight. We didn’t spread out and run our offenses. Defensively, we kind of laid back when we needed to be attacking. To beat a team that is as talented as Cleveland, we would have to play at the top of our game.”

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