BUFORD — Cherokee’s run came to an end Saturday with a 58-47 loss to Collins Hill in the Class AAAAAAA semifinals.
The Lady Warriors were within four points at 46-42 with less than 2 minutes to play, but the Lady Eagles (30-1) made 12 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull away, while Cherokee was just 8-of-13 for the game.
“They made some shots and they got to the free-throw line,” Cherokee coach Matt Cates said. “We didn’t. We didn’t get to the free-throw line. We never got to the bonus, and that’s a big deal in a game like this. We have to be able to get to the free-throw line. They made big shots, and congratulations to them.”
Collins Hill advanced to face Westlake for the state championship March 9 at the Macon Coliseum.
A slow start put Cherokee in an early hole, as it trailed 7-0 to start the game. The Lady Warriors trailed by as many as 10 in the first quarter, but they cut the deficit to 15-11 at the end of the first quarter and 27-23 at the half.
Cherokee was even able to take a 31-30 lead early in the third quarter on an Ashlyn Andrus basket, but Collins Hill answered with the next eight points and never trailed again.
“It’s just the game,” Cates said. “That’s the way it goes. It’s basketball. It’s a game of runs. (Collins Hill) went on a run. They’re a really good team. We couldn’t answer, plain and simple.”
Chatham Brown led Cherokee with 10 points, while Lacie McCoy added nine. Andrus finished with eight, and Sydne Watts and Olivia Herrera each added seven.
Collins Hill’s Bria Harmon led all scorers 21 points. Jordan Releford added 19 as she and Harmon combined to hit 18 free throws, and Javyn Nicholson chipped in with 13 points.
After making its first state semifinal since 1987, Cherokee will turn its sights to next season.
“We’re going to come back and start over, just like we always do,” Cates said.