CANTON -- Cherokee kept its run alive and advanced to the second round of the Class AAAAAAA playoffs Friday with a 58-28 win over Camden County.
Two weeks ago, the Warriors (12-16) entered the six-team region tournament as the fifth seed needing a win over Woodstock to make the playoffs, but they have gone 3-1 since then to set up a second-round matchup with top-ranked McEachern.
“Our defense has played better for the last three or four games,” Cherokee coach Roger Kvam said. “They have some players who can really score, but I thought Elijah Tucker, Ray Newkirk or whoever was on their top scorer just played well for us. When you can hold teams around 30 points, you know you’re going to have a chance.”
While Cherokee held the Wildcats (18-9) under 30 points, the Wildcats could not do the same to Thailand Owens.
The sophomore made four 3-pointers in the first quarter to post 14 of his 33 points to outscore Camden County by himself.
“Thai is just a special player,” Kvam said. “He hit some shots. He was outstanding. I was pleased with how we all played, but when he gets rolling in front of that home crowd, he can fill it up in a hurry.”
Zack Vickers added 11 points, and Tucker chipped in with seven.
Despite a size advantage, Camden County could not get rolling offensively, posting just six points in the first quarter 13 in the first half.
Things did not go much better in the second half, as the Wildcats added just 15 more points to finish with nine made field goals and one 3-pointer.
“We kept them off the boards,” Kvam said. “We did a good job controlling the rebounding with John Sweeney and Zack Vickers. We pressured them and made sure they were really only getting one shot at it.”
Cherokee will be off until Thursday, when it travels to face nationally-ranked McEachern in the second round.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Kvam said. “Things haven’t been easy, and we know they only get harder. We just have to keep focusing on defense and seeing what happens.”