E.A. Sports Today

Warriors find a way

4A subregionals: Cherokee County puts together late rally to get past Saks; White Plains smothers Sardis to reach regionals

Murphy Doss (32) played a big part in White Plains' 28-point third quarter Tuesday night. On the cover, Jerod Guthrie (3) and Eli Hightower (11) trap Sardis' Drew Scott. (Photos by Stephen Miller)

Murphy Doss (32) played a big part in White Plains’ 28-point third quarter Tuesday night. On the cover, Jerod Guthrie (3) and Eli Hightower (11) trap Sardis’ Drew Scott. (Photos by Stephen Miller)

By East Alabama Sports Today

CENTRE – It wasn’t the one-point thriller the two teams played in the sub-regionals last year, but it was just as entertaining.

Cherokee County trailed Saks by three Tuesday night with 2:34 left in the game, but then the Warriors turned in a relentless final two minutes on both ends of the floor to take a 49-45 victory in the Class 4A Northeast subregionals.

The eighth-ranked Warriors (24-7) now face Priceville (22-9) in Saturday’s regional semifinals in Jacksonville. Saks’ season ends at 17-10.

“It was tough, and it felt like we weren’t going to win, but we found a way to pull it out,” said Warrior senior guard Joel Wester, who scored seven of his 12 points in the game’s final 1:32. “Our defense does it for us. Tyren (Dupree) and Quartez (Henderson), when they turn up the pressure on defense, it really helps our offense. … Defense was the key. We only scored 49, but we felt if we held them to 45, then we had a good chance to win.”

The Warriors rally began with Henderson’s 3-pointer with 2:08 left that tied the game at 40. Then, a steal by Dupree led to Wester’s deep 3 with 1:32 remaining that gave the Warriors a 43-40 advantage.

A layup by Saks’ Phonza Ward brought the Wildcats to 43-42 with 50.5 seconds to go. Following a timeout by the Warriors, Jacob Graves was fouled and sent to the line with 29 seconds left. He sank both shots to put the Warriors up 45-42, then a steal by Wester led to a layup and Jaylen Britt’s fifth foul, giving Wester an opportunity for a three-point play.

Wester missed the free throw with 21.4 second remaining, but the Warriors had stretched their lead to five at 47-42.

Saks didn’t give up, as Quin Smith sank a 3 with 5.5 seconds to go to bring the Wildcats within two at 47-45, but Wester was fouled again with 3.7 ticks on the clock and sank both shots for the final.

“I just feel bad for our kids,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “I thought we played outstanding. I thought we played our best game this season, but I just feel bad for them that it ended that way.

“We have trouble scoring a lot of times. We wanted the game to be in the 40s or 50s, 40s preferably. I thought we had a shot to win if that happened, but their kids, you’ve got to give it to them, they made two clutch shots to tie it and one to put them ahead.”

Henderson led the Warriors with 14 points. Dupree delivered eight points, seven boards and two steals. Graves had eight points and Nahum Horton had nine rebounds.

Britt led the Wildcats with 21 points, including three 3s. Smith added 12 points and Ward finished with eight.

“Our guys didn’t panic,” Warrior coach Neal Wester said. “They’ve been through it before. In this game last year against Saks, we were down seven in the fourth quarter and stuck with it. We watched part of that game again yesterday and we talked about it, but you never know how kids are going to react. I was really proud of them. They just kept battling. I was proud of their toughness, to find a way to get it done against a good team.”

White Plains 74, Sardis 46

After an unimpressive offensive showing early in the game, the Wildcats looked like a fat cats in the second half. Well, at least in the third quarter.

White Plains held a 32-17 halftime lead despite not shooting the ball well, but the Wildcats came out of the break to put up 28 points in the third quarter to turn the game into a rout. Jerod Guthrie capped the quarter with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“Our defensive pressure was all night, it was solid from start to finish, but we didn’t shoot the ball at all in the first half,” Wildcats coach Chris Randall said. “We quit settling for jump shots in the third quarter and started attacking the rim better. That was the big difference. The way we responded in the third quarter, wow, we were like a millions bucks.”

Lawrence Jackson and Macey Carr led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points each. Jackson had nine points and four steals in the second quarter.

Murphy Doss was hard to guard in the third and he and foul-plagued Michael McGuirk both scored 10. The Wildcats had eight players score between eight and 14 points.

The Wildcats (25-7) now will play top-ranked Westminster Christian in their regional semifinal Saturday at 4:30 p.m. It’s a rematch of their region championship game of a year ago.

“If you have to play them, I’d just as soon play them first and we’ll see what we’re made of,” Randall said. “I think it’s a big challenge for us. Our kids are excited. I’m ready to get three days of practice in before Saturday.”

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