CEDAR BLUFF – If there’s one thing the Cedar Bluff Tigers are learning about the 2020-21 basketball season, it’s adapting to adversity and appreciating the time spent on the court with their teammates.
On Thursday night at home against Class 1A, Area 13 rival Valley Head, Cedar Bluff was down to seven varsity players. The other five were in COVID-19 quarantine.
Even with the low numbers, the Tigers were somehow able to scratch and claw their way to a 47-42 victory.
A big key to the win was free throws.
Cedar Bluff (5-11, 3-4) connected on 11-of-18 shots from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Anbre Leek was 10-of-14 from the free-throw line for the game, including a 5-of-6 performance in the final 17 seconds.
Leek led Cedar Bluff with 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“That’s a learning moment,” Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said. “You’ve got to get in those games to win those games, and I was proud of them for the win. It’s been frustrating to them with kids who are out, either sick or exposure. If we change anything (at practice), they don’t know what’s going on when they get back. The other kids try to help them, but we haven’t had enough practice time. This whole thing has been a tremendous challenge.
“We dug ourselves a hole to start off with, but we caught up and got ahead. We tried to mess it up by turning it over a couple of times and make some unnecessary fouls. We’ve got to improve with our box outs and not trying to jump all the time and take care of the basketball better. I think we got in a hurry at times tonight, and I had to calm them back down. I don’t know why we felt like we were pressured. We didn’t do some things right offensively. We had decent defense. I’m proud of them. They go out and compete.”
As Carpenter said, Cedar Bluff trailed in the early stages of the game. The Tigers were behind 13-8 at the end of the first quarter, but fought back in the second to take a 25-20 advantage into halftime.
Cedar Bluff maintained a 31-27 edge at the end of three quarters, but Valley Head attempted its own comeback in the fourth.
The visiting Tigers drew within one at 39-38 on a basket by junior forward Pacey Cooper with 1:03 to go. A pair of Bucky Leek free throws with 25.8 seconds remaining put Cedar Bluff back up three at 41-38, but Valley Head junior guard Chandler Johnson drew a foul on the other end of the court with 18.4 seconds left.
Johnson sank both of his free-throw attempts to bring Valley Head back within a point at 41-40, but then Anbre Leek put things on his shoulders down the stretch, allowing Cedar Bluff to escape with the win.
Bucky Leek tossed in 13 points for Cedar Bluff. Jacob Burleson finished with eight points.
Eian Bain led Valley Head with 12 points, including three treys. Johnson finished with 11 points.
“I think this is teaching the kids a lot about relying on who’s here,” Carpenter said. “They need to cherish every game because you really don’t know if it might end. You’ve got to go day by day.”
Valley Head 47, Cedar Bluff 26
CEDAR BLUFF – The Valley Head Lady Tigers jumped out to a 17-4 first-quarter advantage, helping them earn a 47-26 victory at Cedar Bluff in Class 1A, Area 13 girls basketball action on Thursday evening.
Cedar Bluff (3-11, 2-5) trailed 27-11 at halftime before attempting to make a run in the second half. The home-standing Lady Tigers cut their deficit to 10 late in the third quarter and early in the fourth before Valley Head pulled away down the stretch.
“I was proud we fought back tonight,” Carpenter said. “We haven’t experienced that kind of guard speed many times this year. That’s hard to replicate in practice. The press at the beginning, we hadn’t seen that much all year long. We tried to get ready for it, but they did a good job of taking advantage of our miscues.”
Jenna McKenzie led Valley Head with 15 points. Lydia Crane came away with 13 points and Sophia Blair finished with 10 points.
Caley Bruce led Cedar Bluff with nine points. Maggie Clowdis contributed six points and Hayden Cannon finished with five points before suffering a left injury with 5:16 to go in the fourth quarter.
The two teams battle each other again at Valley Head on Friday evening.
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