A blistering 14-point streak erased an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit, allowing Cherokee to secure a region berth with a 42-37 win over determined David Crockett in the opening round of the District 1-AAA girls basketball tournament Wednesday night at the Lady Chiefs’ gym.
Head coach Jason Lawson said he wasn’t worried despite the late deficit.
“I have faith in my girls,” said Lawson. “We’ve been here before. We’re battle tested. I’ve got six seniors and a great leader, and we proved our experience tonight.”
Improving to 18-10 on the season, Cherokee moved into Friday’s semifinals. The Lady Chiefs will play top-seeded Dobyns-Bennett at 6 p.m. at Daniel Boone’s Snyder Gym.
It was a season-ending loss for Crockett (9-17).
It wasn’t her best game, but Harper Russell dialed up six fourth-quarter points to help fuel the comeback. She finished with 13 for the game.
She said the players remained confident throughout.
“We know what kind of team we have, and we’ve come back from a lot more significant leads than that this season,” said Russell. “So I knew if we kept playing our game and kept hustling, we could come back.”
HOME COURT DIFFERENCE
When Cherokee finally got things going its way, the fans seemed to help turn the tide. In previous years this game would have been played at the tournament site, but the Chiefs used home court to its fullest advantage.
“We got a turnover and hit our layup,” said Lawson. “The crowd got re-energized, and the girls picked up the defensive intensity. We were very fortunate the momentum swung our way.”
Trailing 33-25, Cherokee finally found whatever was missing in the first 24 minutes of the game. Shots started falling instead of rolling off. And a series of nice defensive efforts boosted the comeback into high gear. A YouTube Live video of Cherokee taking control of the game is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpYKen2kWII.
“The crowd definitely played a big role,” said Russell. “And once we hit a few shots, it helped us amp up our defense a little bit, too.”
By the time it was done, Cherokee had a six-point lead and Crockett could not recover.
“The inexperience of being in that situation hurt us,” said Crockett head coach Tony Gordon of his young team. “And Cherokee did an outstanding job of putting pressure on us up front.”
Crockett had an opportunity to tie with a wide-open look from 3-point land with 30 seconds remaining, but couldn’t convert. Cherokee’s Kennedy Cowan made a free throw on the other end for a 41-37 advantage.
Another trey try by Crockett with 10 seconds left went in and out, ending any hopes of a miracle finish.
“They fought back all year,” said Gordon. “They executed the things we were trying to run at the end, but the shots just didn’t go. That’s nobody’s fault. That’s just basketball.”
KEY MOMENT FOR PIONEERS
David Crockett watched a 19-10 late-second-quarter lead drain to two points with a 7-0 Cherokee run.
A turnover by Crockett’s Alyssa Suits didn’t stick in her mind. She blocked out the negative and responded with a positive, getting the friendly bounce for a momentum-changing 3-pointer to send Crockett into the locker room with a 22-17 advantage.
Emma Gouge paced Crockett’s attack with 11 points.
Cherokee 42, Crockett 37
DAVID CROCKETT (9-17)
McKee 4, Scott 2, Gouge 11, Baldwin 8, Weems 6, Suits 3, Trivette 3.
Russell 13, Smith 4, Cowan 3, Alvis 2, Johnson 8, Collins 5, Goins 7.
David Crockett 8 14 8 7 — 37
Cherokee 5 12 8 17 — 42
3-point goals — Crockett 4 (McKee, Gouge, Suits, Trivette), Cherokee 1 (Goins).