ALPHARETTA — After a day full of basketball, Cherokee County hailed victorious in the first-ever Cherokee-Forsyth Classic.
The six-game showcase featured two undefeated teams that fell, hundreds of 3-pointers made and several dunks, but by Saturday night it was Cherokee which won four games to Forsyth’s two. Hosted by Denmark High School, boys teams from the six public schools from Cherokee faced the six public schools in Forsyth for a day of high school basketball that warranted attention from plenty of fans. Here’s how the inaugural showcase played out:
River Ridge 64,
North Forsyth 54
On Saturday morning, in the first game of the day, River Ridge set the tone for Cherokee County.
Freshman Jackson Head picked up a technical foul in the second quarter as he dove for a ball that was in possession of North Forsyth’s Aidan Kudlas. River Ridge coach Aaron Darling left the freshman dual-sport athlete in the game, however, and allowed Head to continue to be a force on defense. River Ridge went on to win and improved its record to 4-5.
“(Friday) night was back to normal Jackson on the basketball court. He’s kind of been in football mode,” Darling said. “We need him. He’s a big part of what we do.”
Head finished with eight points, three steals and a highlight reel filled with physicality.
The Knights were just 16 hours removed from a 71-67 victory against Sprayberry and Darling was worried about how his team would respond with little rest.
It took the first half for the Knights to find their footing, heading into halftime with just a three-point lead. In the third quarter, River Ridge began to find its offense, led by sophomore Jared Russo who finished with 21 points and plenty of rebounds on both sides of the court.
“Jared is kind of our guy and he’s starting to get a little meanness to him,” Darling said. “He’s got that ‘I can take over a game’ mentality.”
The fourth quarter was dominated by the Knights who seemingly made every shot and didn’t allow the Raiders to gain an inch. In the last five minutes, the Knights implemented a full court press, led by Head, which smothered the Raiders.
“Two of our last three games, we’ve been up 15-18 going into half and have won by three or four points,” Darling said. “Young guys are starting to learn and then in the locker room we’re seeing that we can do this.”
River Ridge will play next at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Sequoyah.
Lambert 68, Creekview 60
Lambert had a size advantage over Creekview but the Grizzlies kept stride on Saturday at Denmark High School. Lambert was quick, hitting shots and playing fast, but Creekview (2-7) never let the Longhorns gain too much of a lead.
Creekview maintained composure in the second quarter, as Lambert played fairly desperate, not setting up any sort of offense and chucking up plenty of shots. The Grizzlies turned the Longhorns miscues into points and took a 33-28 lead into the locker room.
The thrilling matchup between Lambert’s Will Baker and Creekview’s Jayden Cox-Young, both juniors, came alive in the second half. Cox-Young played defense down low, not letting Baker or anyone else beat him to the basket, while Baker was a help-man defender and created transition offense several times.
On offense, however, is where both players showed their skillset. Baker threw up a three from distance and Cox-Young responded with dynamic dribbling and a Steph Curry-like layup. The two squads stayed punch-for-punch, but a fourth quarter run from Lambert was the difference in a 68-60 loss for the Grizzlies.
Cox-Young led Creekview in scoring with 16 points while Spencer McDonald had 15 points. Baker and Braxton Beaty each had 16 points for Lambert.
Creekview will play next at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at home against South Cobb.
South Forsyth 61,
The Eagles were looking to improve to 7-0 on the season and in the third quarter it looked like they were going to accomplish that.
Etowah (6-1) took a five-point lead into halftime and held an 11-point lead against South Forsyth in the third quarter, but South Forsyth’s shift to a zone defense seemed to rattle the Eagles.
Up 38-27, junior Cole Ellis began to be double teamed and senior Will Garvey’s shots weren’t falling the way they had all day. The intricate ball movement Etowah used in the first half was unwoven and the Eagles failed to convert any points.
As Etowah’s offense went stagnant, South’s began to click. Gavin Morris sank 3-pointers, Devin McGlockton rebounded and Thomas Stocks did a little bit of everything.
Foul trouble forced Etowah coach Jason Dasinger to send Ellis to the bench, which forced Garvey to step up. The senior finished with 29 points, but missed two big free throws and committed a foul in the waning minutes to give South Forsyth a 61-53 victory.
Behind Garvey’s efforts was freshman Mason Etter’s 10 points. Ellis finished with 9 points. Leading South Forsyth was Stocks with 21 points while McGlockton finished with 19 points.
Etowah will play next at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at home against Walton in both team’s Region 4AAAAAAA opener.
Forsyth Central 65
In the first half against Forsyth Central, Woodstock (5-4) wasn’t playing at the pace coach Joshua Pierce wanted. Woodstock went to the locker room down 41-35, and Pierce felt his team wasn’t playing to their potential.
“In the first half, we didn’t have intensity on defense that we needed,” Pierce said. “The second half, we played a lot better on defense.”
It wasn’t until the second half that junior Zeek Pettway used his size and athleticism to overpower the Bulldogs. Pettway finished with a career-high 28 points and made a living behind the arc on offense and in the paint on defense.
“He’s been great for us,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to get him to buy in a little more on defense. I think he’s a kid thats going to be able to play at the next level with the way he can stroke it and his height.”
Pettway’s sidekick on offense was senior Jahnay Newton, who finished with 13 points, and also was a pest for Forsyth Central’s offense. Leading the Bulldogs was Brandon Sherer with 25 points.
“On offense, we were a lot better because we were pushing the ball which is what we like to do,” Pierce said. “We were pushing the ball better, getting the ball inside the paint and sending it out to our shooters and they were hitting. That changed the game.”
Woodstock will play next at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Roswell in both team’s Region 4AAAAAAA opener.
West Forsyth 79
West Forsyth shot out to a quick lead coming off its first loss of the season, but Sequoyah secured the victory in the fourth quarter behind a defensive adjustment.
West Forsyth’s Joseph Staiti had 12 points in the first quarter and the Chiefs seemed to have no answer for the senior. Sequoyah coach Allen Carden sent two defenders on Staiti in the second quarter, which silenced him, but opened the door for other Wolverine scorers. At halftime, Sequoyah trailed 43-39 and Carden kept his team on the court instead of heading to the locker room.
“We got down early because they were shooting the ball well,” Carden said. “I told our kids to keep working and somewhere down the road it’s going to turn midway through the third or midway through the fourth.”
The tide turned in the third quarter, with a slew of Chiefs converting turnovers into points and having defensive stands. Suddenly, Sequoyah had built up a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter which forced the Wolverines to play catch up. West continued to have miscues, but Staiti was finding offense in transition.
“We were missing shots and they were getting out in transition and (Staiti) had some wide open shots,” Carden said. “When you get down, you can’t play straight up. You have to mix some things around, which we did and we were able to get some steals.”
Staiti finished with 22, but did not score in the second or fourth quarters. In the fourth quarter, West clawed its way back to take a 77-76 lead with 3:16 left. That’s all the hope the Chiefs would give up as they hunkered down and took the victory.
Senior Jackson Greco led the Chiefs in scoring with 25, followed by senior Myles McGee’s 17 point.
“It was a gutty, gritty win and we did a lot of tough things that we hadn’t been doing earlier in the week,” Carden said. “It’s good to see our hard work pay off. Maybe this is the turning point.”
Sequoyah will play next at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at home against River Ridge.
Cherokee 52, Denmark 47
Cherokee coach Roger Kvam said he had a primary concern heading into the final game of the day on Saturday night.
“I saw their size when I was scouting them, and I had some concern with them getting second shots, but we did a good job on the boards,” Kvam said.
A defensive tout was the theme between the two teams that were neck and neck for much of the first half. Both teams had their fair share of steals, blocks and turnovers which made for a low-scoring affair, but when junior Elijah Tucker went up for a dunk just in front of Denmark’s student section, Cherokee seized momentum and wouldn’t give it up.
“It was 21-19 and we were struggling on offense a little bit, but really played great defense,” Kvam said. “Once we started playing together on offense, we finally got some easy baskets. It’s a good win for us.”
The Warriors (6-1) used some complex passing in transition to surge its 3-point shooting throughout the second half. Denmark tried to make it a game, cutting the Cherokee lead to 47-43 with just over two minutes to go. The Danes called two timeouts to try to trap the Warriors, but to no avail as the Warriors closed the game out in the final moments.
The win gave Cherokee County four wins on the day, putting Cherokee on top in the inaugural exhibition.
“I think the one thing about Cherokee and Forsyth Counties is that there are really good coaches running programs,” Kvam said about the showcase. “They’re all good coaches. They have their teams prepared and everyone has a different style.”
Cherokee will play next at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at home against Lassiter in both team’s Region 4AAAAAAA opener.