Warriors jump out to big early lead, down Piedmont on senior night
CENTRE - Cherokee County High School boys basketball coach Neal Wester has been back with the Warriors for four years now, and he’s spent a lot of time on the court with seniors Jacob Graves, Zae Wright, Chris Roden, Josh Dobbs and Cade Gossett.
On Friday night against rival Piedmont, those seniors were honored for their past contributions on the court. Judging the Warriors’ performance on Friday, they still have a lot more to offer.
Cherokee County jumped out to a 19-6 first-quarter lead and didn’t look back in a 66-46 bruising of the Bulldogs.
"That’s big for them," Wester said. "The night they were recognized, they played well. They had a good night. I’m really proud of them. I really appreciate their effort, the time they’ve put in and the level they’ve gotten our program to. They’ve laid the groundwork for us. They’ve had great years, and hopefully they’ll finish strong."
Wester hopes Friday’s effort is the blueprint for the strong finish he’s hoping for. Eleven of the 12 Warriors who were dressed for the game scored, and their defense held Piedmont senior post player Austin Brazier to 10 points.
"Our defense starts with our point guards," Wester said. "Jacob and Zae apply so much ball pressure. They make teams work just to get it down the court. Tonight, our half-court defense was probably better than it’s been all year long. That was Riley (Russell) and Chris working inside. Kyle (Burgess) and Colin (Edwards) played good at the guards and helped out. That was our best defensive effort we’ve had."
Roden led the Warriors (17-7) with 10 points. Graves and Russell scored nine apiece. Wright and Burgess added eight points and Ivory Moore finished with six.
Cardavion Myers also scored 10 for Piedmont . Weston Kirk contributed eight points. Taylor Hayes tallied seven and A.J. Fairs finished with five.
After jumping out to a 13-point edge in the first quarter, the Warriors kept the pressure on Piedmont. They led 32-14 at halftime and held a 45-29 advantage at the end of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs managed to whittle the Warrior lead to 12 a couple of times in the fourth quarter. The first was on a made 3-pointer by Myers that made the score 47-35 with 6:14 to go and then a basket by Brazier less than a minute later made it a 49-37 game, but Piedmont could get no closer. The Warriors closed out the contest on a 17-9 run for the final.
Cherokee County closes out its regular season on Saturday with a county tournament championship rematch against Cedar Bluff. The Warriors won the first meeting 70-59 back on Jan. 14 to secure their fourth straight county title. Cherokee County will then face Hokes Bluff in the first round of the Class 4A, Area 12 tournament at White Plains next Thursday at 6 p.m.
Piedmont’s regular season has ended. The Bulldogs now prepare for the Class 3A, Area 10 tournament at Glencoe against Pleasant Valley on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.
Cherokee County 64, Piedmont 38
CENTRE - Cherokee County girls basketball coach Leah Nelson had a simple message to her team in the locker room before they took the court on Friday.
"It’s senior night and it’s Piedmont," she said. " If you can’t get up for that and rise to the occasion, then we’ve got problems."
The Class 4A, No. 5 Lady Warriors demonstrated they were ready for Friday night with a 64-38 victory, sending seniors Coley Battles, Ashley Acrey and Meagan McGatha out as winners over one of their biggest rivals.
"I’ve got three great seniors who have been with me since I started my first year coaching here," Nelson said. " I told them after the game their class started with 12 players, and now we’re down to three. It takes a special person to stick with it year after year, especially after the seasons on varsity they’ve had of not winning a whole lot of games. They’re great teammates and I’m very happy we could send them off with a great win against Piedmont. "
Crimson Mahannah led the Lady Warriors (17-6) with 14 points. Kendal Perry contributed nine points and five steals. Battles added seven points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Emily Williams had seven points and six boards. Jensen Alexander finished with seven points, nine assists and three steals.
Cherokee County led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter and 28-19 at halftime, then blew the game open with a 17-9 run in the third to take a 45-28 advantage into the fourth.
"We had to makes some adjustments after halftime with our defense," Nelson said. "We felt like we were playing sluggish on defense and on offense, but I felt like they responded well and turned up the intensity a little bit."
Kaitlyn Ridley led Piedmont (10-15) with nine points. Sydney Prater posted eight points. Breanna Brazier, Lulu Jackson and Rebecca Smart each finished with seven points.
Cherokee County hosts Cedar Bluff on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. to close out the regular season. The Lady Warriors open Class 4A, Area 12 tournament play at Hokes Bluff against Jacksonville on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Piedmont hosts the winner of the Pleasant Valley-Glencoe game in the Class 3A, Area 10 tournament championship next Thursday at 7 p.m.