CANTON — Cherokee survived a late scare and returned to the Class AAAAAAA state quarterfinals with a 69-63 win over Pebblebrook on Wednesday.
The Lady Warriors (26-3) opened the game on a 12-0 run and led by as many as 19 in the first half before the Lady Falcons (22-6) stormed back to tie the game at 60-all with less than a minute to play.
“We survived,” Cherokee coach Matt Cates said. “We obviously didn’t play our best the entire game. Pebblebrook is a really good team with really good players. They gave us everything we could handle, but that’s playoff basketball.”
Cherokee will host Rockdale County (18-12) next week, eyeing the program’s first state semifinal berth since 1987.
Ashlyn Andrus led the Lady Warriors with a game-high 30 points. Sydne Watts added 14, while Olivia Herrera chipped in with 12, including the go-ahead three-point play with 48.5 seconds remaining.
The play, which sparked a 9-3 game-ending run, came in a run of 11 straight made free throws to end the game for the Lady Warriors.
“We just made some plays when we needed to,” Cates said. “It seems like we always have somebody step up when we’re in these positions. That’s what’s great about this team. We have enough girls that, when they’re focusing on one player, someone else can step in.”
Though Pebblebrook’s comeback attempt came up short, the Lady Falcons (22-6) never allowed Cherokee to get comfortable. They won the turnover battle 26-9 — including a 16-3 edge in the second half — and they had one more offensive rebound than a Lady Warriors team with a significant size advantage.
“Those are the games you have to find a way to win,” Cates said. “We’ve learned the last couple years in the playoffs, nothing is going to be easy. I’m proud of the girls for digging deep and finding a way.”
Milana Holmes led Pebblebrook with 15 points, while Meliyah White chipped in with 13. Raven Madaris scored all 10 of her points in the second half, as the Lady Falcons outscored Cherokee 43-34 after the break.