published Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Blue Raiders get past White County, 57-50

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Throughout the course of the season, the Cleveland basketball team has been scrapping to find ways to win.

Even though Saturday's recipe included only two field goals in the final 4:48, the Blue Raiders still were able to do what they've done 17 other times this season -- find a way to win.

The Blue Raiders broke open a 50-all tie with seven points in the final 7.2 seconds and advanced to the Region 3-AAA semifinals with a 57-50 win over White County.

The tournament now moves to Cookeville with Cleveland (18-8) taking on Stone Memorial at 8:30 p.m. EST Tuesday.

Cleveland was 9-for-13 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 22-for-30 for the game.

Kendrick Thompson led the team with 19 points, adding 12 rebounds, while Jake Gibson had 13 points and was 8-for-8 on free throws.

He hit a pair to give Cleveland a 50-48 lead with 3:28 to go, but the Warriors (22-8) tied the game on a layup by Zack Stevenson with 43 seconds remaining.

Thompson was fouled with 7.2 seconds to go and hit 1-of-2 at the free-throw line, but Cantrel Ware stole a loose ball from White County's Kordell Henderson and was fouled.

He hit a pair of free throws, and then Gibson stole a baseball pass and was intentionally fouled by Henderson as he was making a layup.

Gibson hit a pair of free throws for the final margin.

"I thought we executed our game plan well," Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. "We played really good defense. I thought early on, White County got confused with our presses. At the end we made some free throws and won a 50-50 ball to end the game."

Cleveland jumped to a 13-5 lead after a quarter. White County rallied with a 12-1 run, only to be trumped. by Cleveland's 12-0 run over the final 3:46 of the first half.

The Warriors had a 9-2 fourth-quarter run, capped off by Henderson's 3-pointer to tie things at 48 with 4:15 to go.

Henderson led the Warriors with 22 points.

The Warriors were 7-for-15 at the foul line Saturday.

"We had a good record coming in, but we were shooting under 60 percent from the free-throw line on the year, and that hurt us again tonight," White County coach Eric Mitchell said. "We weathered their storm and had some opportunities, but the shots didn't go in at the end."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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