Cherokee’s boys basketball team finally got its first Big 7 Conference win of the season by beating archrival Volunteer 78-71 on Friday night.
“It feels good to get one, especially against your rival,” Chiefs coach Ty Webb said. “Hopefully we can build off this because we’ve got a lot of home games coming down the stretch here. I feel like we’ve been on the road all year.”
It wasn’t easy, though. The Falcons (5-16, 2-5) cut what was once a 22-point third-quarter lead, 55-33, to six, 73-67, with 34.8 seconds to go.
Thankfully for the Chiefs (5-16, 1-6), they were able to hit enough free throws down the stretch to keep a scrappy Falcons team at bay.
“In the 38 years that I’ve been coaching basketball, I’m even more proud of a team than I was tonight,” Volunteer coach Mike Poe said. “I don’t know how those guys played as hard as they played. I was absolutely in astonishment over there.
“We got in some foul trouble early and we didn’t make the plays that we needed to. They made some plays and stretched that lead out. We knew we needed to hang in there in the first half, but we didn’t make the plays that could’ve kept us in touch.”
Chiefs freshman Carter Metz had his coming-out party, scoring a game-high 22 points and hitting four key free throws that iced the game.
“I challenged (Carter) before the game and told him to be really aggressive in the offense,” Webb said. “He can really score the basketball. He’s one that looks to distribute first, but he’s got to score more for us in order to be successful.”
Ryan Bledsoe finished with 18 points for Cherokee and Breiydon Gilliam had 10.
“Volunteer has been known all year for their second-half comebacks,” Webb said. “I knew when we went up at the half that the game wasn’t even close to being over. I knew they’d come fighting back. They got out of control at times, but I thought they handled the pressure pretty well.”
Chance Johnson spearheaded a valiant effort for Volunteer with 18 points. Eli Churchwell netted 16, Brody Hunley 14 and Ethan Dean 10.
CHEROKEE GIRLS DOMINATE
Pure defensive domination carried the Lady Chiefs to a 45-25 win that secured the season sweep of the Lady Falcons.
Harper Russell continued her standout senior campaign with 14 points and, on her first made field goal of the evening, surpassed 1,500 points for her career. She needed three points going into the game to reach the milestone.
“She’s been a staple in the program,” Cherokee coach Jason Lawson said. “She’s worked really hard and it’s not just at basketball. She’s very dedicated and you can tell that when she gets on the floor. She’s been a great leader, role model, and has helped put our program back on the map.”
With defense again its calling card, Cherokee (14-6, 4-3) held Volunteer (5-15, 1-6) to just three points in both the second and fourth quarters.
“This team is very tough mentally and they’ve been in the program for four years,” Lawson said. “It’s something that we work on daily and we take a lot of pride in it. Offense looks good, but you have to be able to stop people, too.”
Allie Parsons had 10 points to lead the Lady Falcons.