CANTON — Shots weren’t falling as they would have liked but on the other end of the court the Lady Warriors’ defense looked just fine.
Playing in the school’s historic gym, Cherokee defeated Marietta 58-30 on Saturday afternoon. Cherokee (11-1) was led in scoring by senior point guard Ashlyn Andrus who finished with a game-high 20 points but it was their defensive intensity which allowed the Lady Warriors to build a 16-point halftime lead en route to their sixth-consecutive victory.
After an early season home win, Cherokee coach Matt Cates said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense despite the final score. Following Saturday’s win Cates admitted there’s been an improvement in that area.
“I feel better defensively from where we were,” Cates said. “To hold a team to 30 points is hard to do. We’re not where we want to be but we’re getting there.”
With the game tied 5-5 early in the first quarter, Andrus converted on a layup followed by a 3-pointer. Cherokee would lead for the remainder of the game as Andrus’ 15 first-half points helped lead the Warriors to a 31-15 lead entering the locker rooms.
Defensively, the Lady Warriors were dominant. Sydne Watts and Kate Johnson weren’t finding their rhythm’s offensively but defended the post well against an athletic front court from Marietta. Chatham Brown continued to show her ability to score and finished with all of her 11 points in the first half. Watts finished with seven points.
Andrus made two 3-pointers in the game but it was her basket plus the foul on a backdoor cut which gave Cherokee 27-15 lead with less than a minute until halftime. The Lady Warriors outscored Marietta 21-8 in the second quarter and in the second half continued to extend the lead against an aggressive Marietta team with size and speed at multiple positions.
“(Marietta) is tough, their region is tough, and that’s why we play them,” Cates said. “We have to see teams that play that way because that’s what you’re gonna see in the state tournament. I thought our kids did a good job of turning up our intensity.”
Presli Clark and Lily Griffith, two sophomores off the bench, seemed to help raise the defensive pressure in the second half. Having reliable backups is something not every team can say they have and bodes well for the future years of Lady Warrior basketball. Griffith finished with seven points while Haylee Donley finished with six.
“I’m very pleased that we have numerous kids stepping up,” Cates said. “Putting the ball in the basket or doing things defensively. Presli (Clark) and Lily (Griffith) were animals out there defensively and those kids are just sophomores. That;s a great thing to see because they’re young. I was very pleased with especially those two tonight.”
Cherokee will play at 7 p.m. on Thursday against Tennessee High School on the first day of the Arby’s Classic Tournament in Bristol Tennessee.