WOODSTOCK — Cherokee coach Matt Cates said he wanted to create more possessions in the second half of Friday night’s game at Etowah and the Lady Warriors apparently heeded the message.
In a flash, Cherokee outscored Etowah 25-0 in the third quarter and cruised to a 55-24 road victory on Friday night. It was Cherokee’s fifth straight win as the Lady Warriors (17-2, 5-0) remained unbeaten in Region 4AAAAAAA. Etowah (9-10, 1-4), meanwhile, dropped its third straight region game and fourth straight overall.
Cherokee led 16-3 at the end of the first quarter but Etowah climbed back into striking distance by halftime. The Lady Warriors held a 26-18 lead entering the halftime locker room.
“We went into halftime and made a couple adjustments,” Cates said. “We just weren’t playing fast enough. We had 19 offensive possessions in the third quarter and we only had 25 offensive possessions the entire first half.”
Sydne Watts began to impose her will in the third quarter. After knocking down two 3-pointers in the opening minutes, the senior used her skill to penetrate the Etowah defense to finish on pull-up jumpers and at the rim on contested layups. Watts scored 13 of her game-high 21 points in the quarter and whether Etowah was in a zone defense or playing man-to-man it didn’t seem to affect Watts’ ability to score.
Cherokee’s defense led to transition offense as Ashlyn Andrus and Chatham Brown joined Watts in the third quarter onslaught. Andrus’ 3-pointer opened the scoring in the period and the senior point guard finished with 13 points in the game. Brown was excellent on the break, scoring four in the quarter on her way to 12 points in the game.
“We didn’t do what we said we were going to do at halftime, which was control the ball and come out with some poise,” Etowah coach Rob Graner said. “That’s been our bugaboo all year. We’ll have one really good half and then one really bad half. We’ve got to start responding to playing four quarters. Once we do that we’re going to be a pretty good team.”
Cherokee was playing without starting center Kate Johnson, who sat out the game due to a concussion protocol. Cates said he expects Johnson back within the next week but added the timetable can fluctuate.
“You know how that is, it’s like a sprained ankle. You don’t want to push it,” Cates said.
Etowah senior Maggie Messerly knocked down a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to end the Cherokee run but the damage had been done. Messerly finished with 17 points on five made 3-pointers to lead the Lady Eagles.
As good as Cherokee’s offense was in the third quarter, its defense was equally impressive. Cherokee held Etowah to six points in the second half and Friday’s game was the sixth time this season in which the Lady Warriors have held their opponents to 30 points or less. Cherokee is holding opponents to an average of 37.6 points per game this season.
“I thought that third quarter was a really good offensive quarter for us but I’m a defensive coach,” Cates said. “I love defense and to win you’re going to have to learn to hold people down.”
Cherokee will play at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Lassiter while Etowah will play at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Walton.