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Tayden Owens initiates the Cherokee offense.

After making the state playoffs in 2021, the Cherokee boys basketball team is off to a hot start to the summer. The Warriors won four games at Kennesaw State University’s Amir Abdur-Rahim basketball camp.

Cherokee downed Centennial, Pace Academy, Lanier and St. Francis over the weekend on June 11-12, with a variety of players making noise.

“Our entire group of rising seniors were really awesome this first week of June, and it showed up big time this weekend in some tough games,” Cherokee coach Joe Veihman said. “I was really proud of that group of seniors for their leadership and their focus. Tanner Savasir was also a huge lift for us this weekend off the bench.”

The Warriors have most of their key players returning for the 2022-23 season after finishing 16-10 overall and 5-5 in Region 5AAAAAAA in February. Forward Caleb Richardson was one of the few rotation players lost to graduation.

Cherokee beat Centennial resoundingly, at 61-34 after dropping last season’s opener by six points.

Against Lanier, a pair of rising seniors in Tayden Owens and Braylin Giddens were difference-makers. Owens closed out the 53-51 win with a clutch free throw, and he showed great defensive versatility.

“I thought our resolve and toughness against some of these teams was really impressive,” Veihman said. “We were down five points against a really good Lanier team with a minute left, and Braylin Giddens made two huge shots to keep us in the game.”

The Warriors’ defense as a whole shined during the 46-32 win over St. Francis. It was the lowest opponent point total allowed through the four wins, and Cherokee held St. Francis scoreless for the better part of the first half. Mason Bennett, especially, was a force on the defensive side.

Another player that turned heads was rising sophomore guard Lawrence Sanford. He earned his first Division-I basketball offer from Kennesaw State after speaking with Abdur-Rahim.

“I think we are making progress, but it’s still early,” Veihman said. “This group knows it is just summertime, and this is where we have to make sure we are doing little things right. It is not necessarily about wins and losses, but more the way we carry out our work habits and willingness to do more. We still have a long way to go, but we had a great week 1.”

The River Ridge boys team also attended the camp at Kennesaw State and found some success. The Knights won two of five games with an almost entirely new team.

Four of River Ridge’s five starters have graduated, including leading scorer Jared Russo. However, rising senior David Hansrajlooks ready to take on an increased role, and he showed flashes of big-time scoring with 32 points in the season-opener against Woodstock.

“We were in every game,” River Ridge coach Aaron Darling said. “We competed every game, which I was happy with because we have basically a brand new team. I was very pleased with our guys after the weekend.”

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