The Ooltewah Owls’ basketball is once again relevant, but Bradley Central is, well, still Bradley Central.
Senior Ty Beavers, making his first District 5-3A tournament start, scored seven points in the last four minutes, including a pivotal steal and driving layup with 25 seconds remaining, powering the Bears to a hard-earned 43-33 victory over the Owls on Thursday at Soddy-Daisy High School.
“This is the third time we’ve seen Ooltewah,” Bradley coach Chuck Clark said, “and they’ve gotten better each time. They’re so doggone athletic. That’s a team to be reckoned with in the future, and that’s a good thing. Their guys are learning to be coachable and coach (Jay) Williams is doing a great job with them.”
With the win Bradley Central (18-8), the No. 3 seed, advanced to Saturday’s semifinals against No. 2 East Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. The Bears also secured another trip to the Region 3-3A tournament.
In a sloppy girl’s game to tip off the action, Walker Valley failed to score in the final 7:23 of the fourth period and still won handily 43-27. The Lady Mustangs move on to Saturday’s semifinals and face second-seeded East Hamilton at 6 p.m.
Friday’s schedule pits fifth-seeded Cleveland and No. 4 McMinn County in a girls’ game at 6 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., the No. 4 Walker Valley boys take on No. 5 McMinn County.
The sixth-seeded Owls (9-15) had a 23-21 halftime lead and were within 30-29 after Cam Chambers’ two free throws in the third period.
It was Beavers time after that. He scored 10 of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and seven when the game headed down the stretch.
The senior knocked down a right-wing bank shot, was fouled on the play and made the ensuing free throw for a 33-29 lead. The teams swapped missed shots and turnovers, but Terek McReynolds made two free throws and the Owls trimmed were back within two points.
At the other end Beavers got loose for a driving layup.
Chambers countered 11 seconds later with a lane floater.
Bradley’s Lameric Tucker dropped in two charity tosses and the Bears had a 37-33 advantage with 71 seconds left.
Ooltewah’s Logan Henry missed a baseline jumper. The Bears turned the ball over and the Owls gave it right back when Beavers made the play of the game, stealing the ball near the Owls’ free-throw line and racing to the opposite bucket for a layup to stretch the point spread to 39-33 with 25 seconds on the clock.
“Going into the fourth quarter,” Beavers said, “we knew it was do-or-die and there was some frustration there. I didn’t hit anything in the first quarter, but I tried to take over because I’ve got to bring it every time out there.
“I saw their guy driving and I guess he wasn’t paying attention. I helped over and got the ball. It’s great to win and get to play on Saturday.”
The veteran Clark said, “That play was huge; it probably won it. There were two changing moments when the game could have gone either way. We missed a free throw and Cole tipped it in and we beat the press and Beavers hit the 3 (that gave Bradley a 28-25 lead with 1:32 left. That got our juices going because it was anybody’s game in the last 40 seconds.”
That late long-distance bomb by Beavers was the Bears’ only 3 of the game.
Bradley’s Cole Copeland, the district’s three-time player of the year, scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half.
In fact, the Bears scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, one more than they scored in the first three combined.
Chambers led the Owls with a game-high 18 points and 11 came after halftime but the team failed to score over the final 1 minute and 21 seconds.
“It’s a hard loss,” he said. “We felt like we were going to win the game and play on Saturday, but we didn’t score, we turned the ball over right at the end and stopped playing as a team. Turnovers killed us. We were motivated to do well this year because of what happened last year.”
Ooltewah had a 3-12 record last season when the program was disbanded after a sexual assault incident involving three players against a freshman that was severely injured.
They’ve showed solid improvement throughout this season.
“We give all the respect in the world to Bradley,” Williams said. “They’ve got some good players and we have good players. It may have surprised some people that we were right there at the end, but it didn’t surprise us. These seniors have built the foundation for where this team is going in the future.”
Walker Valley girls 43, Ooltewah 27: Macy Clark, who led the Lady Mustangs with 10 points, made a 3-pointer 36 seconds into the fourth quarter and that was the last time Walker Valley scored. The Lady Mustangs (17-10) used reserve players most of the final period.
After Clark’s 3, the Lady Owls scored eight points, all from the free-throw line.
Annalee Cline paced Ooltewah (7-19) with seven points, including two more 3s. She made three from long-distance in Wednesday’s win over Soddy-Daisy.
The Lady Owls’ zone trap defense was not as effective against the Lady Mustangs as it was on Wednesday in a 50-38 win over Soddy-Daisy because of Walker Valley’s strong guard play.
“They have really good guards and it’s hard to use the trap on them,” Ooltewah coach Jensen Morgan said. “Another thing is we would penetrate offensively, they would get a hand in there and we weren’t getting many shots off.”
The Lady Mustangs had an 8-5 lead with 1:26 left in the first quarter – both teams had limited shots due to turnovers – and then scored the next 12 points to take a 20-5 advantage late in the second period.
Ooltewah got two free throws from Courtney Swafford and a 3-pointer by Annalee Cline to finally reach double figures at the 10-point mark. Walker Valley’s Kayley Walker drained a 3 from the right wing and Emily Anderson made 1 of 2 free throws that put the Lady Owls in a 16-point halftime hole.
Ooltewah 9 4 10 10 – 33
Bradley Central 9 6 6 22 – 43
Ooltewah (33) – Taylor 8, McReynolds 2, Kendricks, Braden 2, T. Morgan, Cam Chambers 18, C. Morgan 3, Je. Walker, Henry,
Bradley Central (43) – Cartwright, Brown 4, Cole Copeland 14, Duggan 2, Tucker 6, Clark, Ty Beavers 17, Elrod.
3-Point Goals – Ooltewah none, Bradley Central 1 (Beavers).
Ooltewah 5 5 9 8 – 27
Walker Valley 10 16 14 3 – 43
Ooltewah (27) – Cline 7, Poland 1, Swafford 6, Kilgore, Wardlaw 5, Mills 3, Collake, Lemon, Turman, Patterson 4.
Walker Valley (43) – Nipper, Patel, Davis 9, Walker 5, Frost, Kile, Knipp, Anderson 4, Lay 8, Macy Clark 10, Baker, Jones 3, Fowler, Gibson, Harris 1
3-Point Goals – Ooltewah 2 (Cline 2), Walker Valley 4 (Clark 2, Davis 1, Walker 1).
Cleveland girls vs. McMinn County, 6 p.m.
McMinn County boys vs. Walker Valley, 7:30 p.m.
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)