MARIETTA — On Friday night the Lady Warriors continued their run which began years ago.
Cherokee defeated Roswell 64-22 to claim the Region 4AAAAAAA championship at Walton High School. It was the fourth consecutive region title for the Lady Warriors and 18th in program history. The seniors on Cherokee’s roster finished their careers undefeated within the region and county over the last three seasons and helped continue the legacy of girls basketball at Cherokee County’s oldest high school.
“Every one of these is special,” Cherokee coach Matt Cates said. “Championships don’t come around often and I’m very humbled to think about all the kids who’ve come through our program.”
Cherokee’s season has been characterized by defense and the devastating scoring runs the Lady Warriors are capable of laying on an opponent. Friday night was no exception.
Cherokee closed out the first quarter on a 10-2 run to lead 17-6 and outscored Roswell 20-5 in the second quarter to lead 37-11 at the half. For the experienced Lady Warriors, the emotions that come with playing in a region championship were nothing new.
“Honestly, it was just another game,” Cherokee senior Sydne Watts said. “I feel like maybe we had a little more nerves in the beginning but that settled down after a couple minutes.”
Cherokee finished with 11 different players in the scoring column with Watts leading the way with 11 points. Fellow senior Chatham Brown and junior Kate Johnson each finished with 10 points apiece. Senior point guard Ashlyn Andrus finished with eight points, all in the first half, and was once again the engine of the Cherokee offense.
Only two weeks prior, Roswell stayed within 10 points of Cherokee in a 70-61 loss. On Friday night, however, the Lady Warriors defense was up to the challenge and held Roswell’s junior guard Makala Torrence, the region Player of the Year, to three points. Liat Klemm led Roswell with 11 points.
“We fixed our defense this time,” Andrus said. “That played a factor in this win but I think we just played better as a team in this one and shared the ball. It’s great to have four region championships and it was fun tonight but we still just have to take it one game at time.”
Johnson and Watts were dominant at times both offensively and defensively for Cherokee. Back-to-back baskets from Brown followed by a 3-pointer from Watts gave Cherokee a 50-15 lead late in the third and Cherokee sat its starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
Roswell simply did not have an answer for Cherokee’s defensive game plan, which blitzed and shadowed Torrence and the other Roswell guards while leaving other individual players unguarded. In a region championship game in the highest classification in the state, Cherokee held Roswell to its season low in points.
Cates was awarded with the region Coach of the Year honors following the win but deflected the credit for Friday night’s game plan.
“Our staff did a great job of coming up with a good game plan,” Cates said. “I’m not taking credit for it because it was our assistant coaches. They did a great job of planning and giving us ideas and the kids did a great job of executing it.”
The Lady Warriors will enter the state playoffs with the No. 1 seed out of Region 4 and will have the opportunity to potentially host playoff games through the first three rounds of the tournament. The first round opponents for both Cherokee and Roswell have yet to be determined.
Cherokee advanced to the Final Four a season ago and after Friday night’s victory all indicators point to another deep playoff run for the Lady Warriors.
“This is a special group,” Cates said. “They’re like a family. They play together, they hang out together. You don’t get a group like this very often.”