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Kate Johnson shoots in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals against Rockdale County. Johnson finished with 14 points as Cherokee advanced to its first state semifinal since 1987. Staff - Alex Resnak

CANTON -- Cherokee was never seriously challenged Tuesday, as it rolled to a 74-38 home win over Rockdale County in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals.

The win gave the Lady Warriors (26-3) their first state semifinals berth since 1987. They will face Collins Hill in Buford Saturday.

“It’s an awesome feeling to get to the final four,” Cherokee coach Matt Cates said. “All the credit goes to the players. It’s the most prepared team I’ve ever had in the quarterfinals. We talked about being in the moment and knowing where our feet are. We stayed level headed and did what we do. I couldn’t be any prouder of this group.”

There was no shortage of options on offense for Cherokee as it won its 20th straight game.

Ashlyn Andrus scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Lady Warriors, and Rockdale County (18-13) had no answer for Kate Johnson on the inside, as she finished with 14.

Sydne Watts added 13, and Olivia Herrera made a trio of 3-pointers to finish with nine points.

“We played against a good team, and we did a good job of executing,” Cates said. “We took care of the ball and did a good job of rebounding. When you can do those two things, you can have success against anybody.”

After a close first quarter, Cherokee outscored the Lady Bulldogs 28-15 in the second quarter to create a 48-28 halftime lead.

The Lady Warriors led by as many as 17 points in the first half of their semifinal game against Pebblebrook and saw it disappear in the second half.

That was not the case against Rockdale County, though, as Cherokee opened the second half on a 12-0 run to take a 60-28 lead and set up a shortened fourth quarter.

“We talked about that,” Cates said. “We learn from our mistakes. We knew they would amp the pressure up coming out of halftime. We really just wanted to improve from how we handled it last week, and the kids did a great job with that.”

Things will only get more difficult this weekend against Collins Hill, though.

The Lady Eagles had to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit to get by Campbell in the quarterfinals, but they have reeled off 26 straight wins.

“They’re a great team,” Cates said. “They have 11 seniors, and they’ve been right there year after year. We’ll have our hands full, but we’ll prepare how we always do. That’s why we play the games. This time of year, anything can happen.”

 

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