The Cherokee boys’ basketball team downed White County on Saturday and improved to 3-0 for the first time since the 2019-20 season. With a veteran roster and some dynamic scorers, the Warriors look like a much-improved team.
Through three games, Cherokee has beaten Centennial 84-71, River Ridge 62-58 and White County 82-48. At least three players have scored in double figures each game so far, and the team is molding into what second-year coach Joe Veihman knew it could be.
“Coming into the season, I knew this group was special,” Veihman said. “We have a year under our belt, we are more experienced and senior-laden, and most importantly, this group is extremely connected to each other. They love each other and have really become a close-knit group.”
The Warriors’ talented backcourt duo of Cameron Pope and Tayden Owens has been off to a strong start this year. Pope is averaging a team-best 20.1 points per game through the undefeated stretch. Pope’s season-high 24 points came against Centennial, and Owens tallied 21 points in Saturday’s blowout win.
Cherokee’s Nov. 17 win over county rival River Ridge was a significant step in its development. The Knights edged the Warriors 69-63 last year, but Pope led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds as Cherokee got its revenge.
“That game, particularly, I thought was a testament to this group and their improved connection,” Veihman said. “Down two starters and on the road against a good team, we had a lot of reasons to fold, but this group refused to do so. Our seniors Braylin Giddens, Cam Pope, Mason Bennett, and Nate Speaks really stepped up and showed the way in how they communicated and were composed.”
Lawrence Sanford, who is only a sophomore, pitched in 15 points in the victory and has scored in double digits in all three games so far. Sanford is averaging 15 points per game in a substantially increased role.
Pope’s playmaking ability has taken the spotlight so far, along with his willingness to rebound and defend at a high clip. He’s averaged 7.5 rebounds over his last two games to pair with some nice defensive sequences.
“Cam is playing with a ton of confidence,” Veihman said. “His recruitment has really picked up in the last couple of months, and he is really starting to round into an all-around player. He dedicated himself to truly getting stronger And building his body, and it has shown already. Last year people regarded him more as a shooter, but he has so much more to his game than that. I think this year, he is going to really show that.”
Following the White County win, Cherokee is off until Nov. 29 before meeting two straight county opponents in Woodstock and Sequoyah. The Chiefs, especially, will be a stiff test after they cruised past Loganville 85-43 on Saturday.
For the Warriors, Veihman is excited to see where they can go after the great start.
“This is a really fun group to be around and to coach every day,” he said. “I am thankful for all of them and their belief in each other.”