CUMMING — Cherokee beat Marist 89-68 on Tuesday night to take home the Raider Classic trophy at North Forsyth.
The Warriors received excellent performances from Cam Pope and Tayden Owens as they rode a strong fourth quarter to victory. Pope scored a game-high 32 points, followed by Owens, who won player of the game with 29.
“Tayden was huge,” Cherokee coach Joe Veihman said. “He was upset with himself after our last game, but we all knew he would bounce back tonight because that is the kind of player he is. Cam has been consistent from the beginning of the season. He is a knock-down shooter, but he is much more than that.”
Pope caught fire from deep in the second half as he made six of his seven 3-pointers after the break. Owens took control late with eight points in the fourth quarter, and some timely steals to keep Marist from clawing back into the game.
“For those two to play the way they did in all three games for us and Tayden closing this win out for us today, I think it is big for this group,” Veihman said.
Cherokee held a comfortable lead for a large portion of the night, but it blew the game open in the fourth quarter, outscoring Marist 25-15.
The Warriors seized momentum down the stretch behind their two star performers and some stifling defense. Marist struggled to find the basket in the final few minutes, which provided Cherokee with plenty of opportunities to push the pace and find open shots.
“We finally got some stops on the defensive end,” Veihman said. “We wanted to close out defensive possessions with rebounds. They were able to get some putbacks early in the game that kept them in it. With about 5 minutes left in the game, we called a timeout and said we need to value the basketball and close defensive possessions out.”
Cherokee converted on 15 3-pointers, compared to Marist’s six. The War Eagles had three players score in double figures, led by Miguel Perea-Berdiel’s 18 points, though it was not nearly enough to weather the Warriors’ offensive barrage.
Multiple Cherokee players outside of Owens and Pope also played well in the win over Marist. Veihman said opposing teams will have to pick their poison when defending the Warriors as Dustin Hart and Braylin Giddens have also been significant factors.
Hart tallied 10 points and controlled the paint for the majority of Tuesday’s game with rebounds and interior scoring. Giddens added six points against Marist after scoring 22 in Monday’s victory over Mount Bethel Christian.
The Warriors have won three straight games after dropping their first two, and Veihman hopes the early tournament win will help boost his team’s confidence entering a stretch where three out of its next four games are against county opponents.
“This is big for our confidence,” he said. “We lost two close ones to start the year by a combined 12 points. We were able to come on the road early and get three convincing wins, shoot the ball and defend better. We know who we are and what we are capable of. This tournament win gives us a boost.”
On the girls side, Cherokee was the Raider Classic runner-up after falling 61-44 to North Forsyth in the championship game.
Toni Warren scored a game-high 15 points and provided a strong No. 1 option on the offensive end when Cherokee struggled to find points. Keimarya Rivera had 13 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
Both the boys and girls will be back in action Saturday, hosting Creekview for a county rivalry game.