The Cherokee girls basketball team is heading beyond the state line to test itself against a few of the best teams in the country.
The Lady Warriors will play this weekend in the 24th annual Arby’s Ladies Holiday Hoops Tournament in Bristol, Tennessee. The three-day tournament will be played at Viking Hall, a 6,100-seat multipurpose arena, and will feature a number of players bound for Division I colleges.
The girls tournament will serve as a precursor to the nationally recognized boys tournament, which will run from Dec. 26-31.
This is the third appearance for Cherokee in the tournament after taking part in 2008 and ‘12. Lady Warriors coach Matt Cates, who grew up in the Bristol area, said the opportunity to participate in the tournament has multiple benefits.
“They reached out to us last March, and we don’t try to travel every year, but it just kind of worked out with our schedule this year,” Cates said. “It’s good for us because we get to see teams that we don’t get to see all the time. Playing against good teams, it’s also a good chance to see where we are heading into the Christmas break.”
Cherokee will play at 7 p.m. Thursday in its first game against the host school, Tennessee High School of Bristol. The bracketed tournament will guarantee the Lady Warriors three games, with two wins advancing the team to the tournament’s championship at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The eight-team tournament features multiple teams with national reputations.
Riverdale High School of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has compiled a 317-36 record this decade, including three-straight state titles from 2016-18. Riverdale is led by senior point guard Alasia Hayes, a five-star prospect and Notre Dame commit.
“If you grew up in Tennessee, you know all these local programs in the tournament,” Cates said. “I know a lot of people who are still there, and it’s always great to see some of those people and showcase what we do down here.”
Another talented team will be St. Joseph Central of Huntington, West Virginia, which has won nine of the past 12 state titles in its classification.
Cherokee (11-1) advanced to the Class AAAAAAA semifinals last season, and playing against high-level competition during the regular season should help the Lady Warriors prepare for a postseason run this year.
“I think they’re excited,” Cates said. “(Viking Hall) is a big, wide-open place, and you’ve got to play in places like that at the state tournament, so I think it’s good to get used to it.”