E.A. Sports Today

Cherokee County winners

Spring Garden stuns No. 10 Cedar Bluff in 1A Area 13 crown; Cherokee County beats Sardis for 4A Area 12 title, face Calhoun County teams next

Cherokee County will play Saks for the second year in a row in the subregional cross-over game. (Photo by Billy Garrett)

Cherokee County will play Saks for the second year in a row in the subregional cross-over game. (Photo by Billy Garrett)

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

CEDAR BLUFF – A few years ago, when the current Spring Garden varsity boys roster was playing in the Cherokee County Junior High championship game against Cedar Bluff, head coach Ricky Austin talked about how much fun would it be to someday win an area championship.

“I didn’t even think they were thinking of one at that age, but I started planting that seed in their heads then because I knew they were the future of our program,” Austin said. “I wanted them to think about it.”

The idea resonated with the Panthers Saturday night as hit seven 3-pointers in the first half and went 23-of-32 from the free-throw line in stunning No. 10 Cedar Bluff 62-48 victory to clinch the Class 1A Area 13 title.

The Panthers (15-14) now host Paint Rock Valley in sub-regional action Tuesday. Cedar Bluff (17-12) travels to No. 8 Area 14 champion Skyline.

“They reminded me of that (junior high championship) when we got in the locker room,” Austin said. “I’m just so proud of our bunch right now. They’ve stuck with me. They’ve had to go through some battles. It’s awful nice to see them get this reward.”

“We knew this would come around one year,” said Dylan Rogers, who finished with 18 points and five rebounds for the Panthers.

The Panthers also paid attention to what Austin said Cedar Bluff’s tendencies during film study prior to Saturday’s game. He put dots on the board and told them that was where shots are coming from in the first quarter “so shoot them.”

They made four 3-pointers in the quarter to open a 16-4 lead. Draevan Bowman had two of them and finished with three among his 10 points. Dakota Lambert and Rogers had the other first-quarter 3s. Lambert posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.

Rogers and Bowman both earned spots on the all-tournament team, but it was tournament Most Valuable Player Riley Austin who come up big down the stretch.

After Cedar Bluff cut Spring Garden’s lead to six at 38-32 after three quarters and to three at 39-36 on a basket by Isaiha Jones with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, Austin made 11 of 14 free throws down the stretch to help the Panthers preserve the lead and the win.

“This was big because we know we can do this now,” the younger Austin said. “They had us out-athleticized, and it just came down to fundamentals.”

Davion Fife led the Tigers with 18 points, including five 3-pointers. He fouled out of the game with 2:52 remaining.

CLASS 4A, AREA 12: Cherokee County dumps Sardis

CENTRE – Quartez Henderson scored 20 points and Joel Wester hit two of his three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as Cherokee County earned another Class 4A Area 12 boys title with a 61-46 victory over Sardis.

“Winning another area championship is a big deal for us,” Warriors head coach Neal Wester said. “I’m just so proud of our kids. They played well. We got off to a slow start, but then we got things rolling. It’s exciting to host another sub-regional game.”

Cherokee County now host Saks in Tuesday’s sub-regionals. Sardis visits White Plains.

The Warriors (23-7) rallied from seven down in the fourth quarter to win last year’s meeting with Saks 62-61 on a 3-pointer by Joel Wester.

“It was a one-point game last year, and they’ve got another good team,” Coach Wester said of Saks. “They’re quick and athletic, so it’s going to be tough. It’s going to take our best effort. I hope our guys will respond to the challenge.”

Joel Wester finished with 13 points for the Warriors Saturday. Tyren Dupree delivered nine points, Jacob Graves added seven and Nahum Horton contributed five.

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald.



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