E.A. Sports Today

Taking ownership

Cherokee County sweeps all four titles in County Tournament, varsity boys with their fourth in a row

By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

CENTRE – The Cherokee County High School student section had a sign draped along the railings at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena on Saturday that said ‘We own this county.’

Judging by what transpired throughout Saturday’s Cherokee County Basketball Tournament championships, it would be hard to argue.

The Warriors’ varsity boys capped a perfect day for the school in defeating Cedar Bluff 70-59 to win their fourth straight boys’ tournament title. The varsity girls, B-team boys and B-team girls all won titles earlier in the day.

“We’re proud of that,” boys head coach Neal Wester said. “It’s our county tournament and it’s bragging rights. It got a little chippy tonight (in the varsity boys’ game) because our guys know each other so well. It matters to them. One on our team (Zae Wright) and one on theirs (Rashawn Woods) are stepbrothers, so they’ve got to go home together. It makes for good competition, and our guys are up for that. … Four years in a row, I’m proud of our program.”

Cedar Bluff (9-9) made the Warriors (13-4) earn their latest county championship.

The Tigers battled them to a 15-all tie at the end of the first quarter. Cherokee County managed to pull out to a 37-30 lead at halftime, but Cedar Bluff closed the gap to a bucket by Davion Fife at 37-35 with 6:20 left in the third.

The Warriors reeled off seven straight points to push their advantage back out to nine at 44-35 and closed out the quarter with a 53-45 lead.

That would be as close as the Tigers would come.

“We knew Cedar Bluff would give us their best game coming in,” said senior guard Quartez Henderson, who led the Warriors with 19 points. “This is the county championship, so we knew it would be a pretty even contest. We knew they would come out and play well.”

“Cedar Bluff brought it all,” added fellow senior guard Colin Edwards, who finished with 15 points. “They were fast and quick, and we had to stay under control as best we could. They put up a great a fight. They’re a good team.”

Turnovers were a thorn in the Tiger paws. The Warriors forced them into 22 miscues for the game and hoped to create easy transition points.

“We can’t turn the ball over that many times against a team like them and expect to win,” Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said. “We turned it over that many times, but we were still within 10. We cut it to single digits several times in the second half. I like the energy we had and the way the guys played, but I thought we needed to do a little better job of boxing out and taking care of the basketball.”

Michael Croft led the Tigers with 22 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Fife finished with 12 points, three boards and a blocked shot. Keaton Kilgro contributed seven points. Woods and Ivory Starr both netted five points. Woods also had eight boards and a block, and Starr pulled down 12 boards.

Lady Warriors earn first county championship since 2013

CENTRE – Before she became a basketball coach, Leah Monteith Nelson was a part of several Cherokee County Tournament championship teams in the early 1990s as a standout player. She desperately wanted her current squad to experience that championship feeling for themselves.

One night after outlasting three-time defending county champion Spring Garden by three points, the Lady Warriors turned around to face top-seeded Sand Rock and earned a 48-36 victory that secured their first county championship in four years.

“I feel like they’re my daughters, and I couldn’t be more proud for them because of how hard I know they’ve worked,” Nelson said. “These seniors haven’t won county since the eighth grade, and it means a lot to me to know they can end their senior year knowing they won county. I feel like this is a stepping stone to what could be a really good season. Hopefully they’ll fall in love with how it feels to win a championship.”

At least two of Nelson’s players have fallen in love with that championship feeling.
“It feels great,” junior guard Kendal Perry said. “I’m thankful for my team and all the hard work we’ve put in. I think winning (Friday) night (against Spring Garden) got us real pumped for this game. We really looked forward to it, and we came out and showed it. I hope we can keep going on throughout the year.”

Cherokee County (12-5) set the tone early. The Lady Warriors jumped out to a 14-6 advantage by the end the first quarter and held a 24-11 advantage at halftime.

Sand Rock (12-6) made a bit of a run in the third quarter, cutting its deficit to seven on three separate occasions, but could never get any closer than that. Cherokee County pushed its lead out to 36-25 at the end of the third quarter and held Sand Rock scoreless for almost the first four minutes of the fourth.

“We couldn’t handle the ball well enough to get into an offense tonight. That was frustrating,” Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates said. “We were stuck on six (points) for a quarter and a half and couldn’t get over that hump. They were physical on the ball, and my guards didn’t handle the physicality well. We couldn’t run anything. We weren’t getting enough shots off because we kept turning the ball over.”

Perry led the Lady Warriors with 20 points and three steals. Crimson Mahannah added 12 points. Laney Kate Johnson had seven, Emily Williams five, Jensen Alexander four (with five boards and three steals) and Coley Battles finished with five rebounds.

Junior strong forward Savannah Blackwell led Sand Rock with 15 points. Junior point guard Paige Norris added seven points for the Lady Wildcats.

Boys Games

Talladega 59, Gadsden City 53

TALLADEGA – Ashton Duncan scored 19 points, Jae-Lynn Russ had a double-double and the Tigers hit 15 of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter to hold off the Titans and give coach Chuck Miller his 701st career victory. Duncan scored seven of his points in the fourth quarter and Dickerson was 6-of-8 from the line in the period.

The Tigers were up by seven at halftime, but trailed by one going into the fourth quarter. Jalen Cole had 11 points in the third quarter to bring the Titans back and Deonte Jones hit three of his six 3-pointers and scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quartr to keep them in it.

GADSDEN CITY – Derek Wright 1 0-0 2, Jayln Brewster 0 0-0 0, Jaylen Cole 3 6-6 13, Deonte Jones 7 5-8 25, Jacorien Garrett 0 0-2 0, Kam Burnett 0 0-0 0, Darien Hollis 4 2-3 11, Mykel Woods 0 0-0 0, Dee Pearson 1 0-0 2, Andie Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 13-19 53.

TALLADEGA – Fred Dickerson 4 6-8 15, Chaztin Tanner 0 0-0 0, Tyrese Scales 0 0-0 0, James McKenzie 0 0-0 0, Ashton Duncan 5 4-4 19, Chrishawn Williams 2 4-5 8, TraShaundez Bolden 1 0-0 2, Robert Houston 3 0-0 6, Jae-Lyn Russ 4 4-5 12. Totals 19 18-22 59.

Gadsden City 13 7 19 14 — 53
Talladega 14 13 11 21 — 59

3-point goals: Gadsden City 8 (Cole, D. Jones 6, Hollis); Talladega 3 (Dickerson, Duncan 2). Technical fouls: Scales, Hollis. Fouled out: Woods. Total fouls: Gadsden City 23, Talladega 18. Officials: Holmes, Smith, Warren.

Clay Central 64, Lincoln 49

LINEVILLE – The Volunteers (12-3, 4-0) basically locked up the No. 1 seed and the right to host the area tournament with the win. Even they were to lose their last two area games and fall into a tie with Talladega, they still hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers by virtue of their season sweep. Clay Central’s Davyn Flenord scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half.

LINCOLN – L.J. Carmichael 6 7-10 19, Donte Rivers 2 0-0 5, Christyan Prince 2 3-3 8, Cody Williams 0 0-0 0, Roderick Wells 2 0-1 4, Shamar Hampton 2 1-1 5, Patrick Gaddis 1 0-0 2, Brikeal Truss 2 2-2 6. Totals 17 13-17 49

CLAY CENTRAL – Davyn Flenord 5 8-12 20, Cole Burns 0 0-0 0, Ben Street 3 1-2 6, Jamal Williamson 3 0-0 7, Cameron Peoples 1 0-0 2, Shemari Simmons 1 2-4 4, Quen McKinney 4 0-0 9, LaShawn Simmons 0 1-3 1, Joe Bullock 5 0-0 13, Garrett Yates 0 1-2 1. Totals 22 13-22 64.

Lincoln 5 15 16 13 — 49
Clay Central 16 16 13 19 — 64

3-point goals: Lincoln 2 (Rivers, Prince); Clay Central 7 (Flenord 2, Williamson, McKinney Bullock 3). Fouled out: Truss, Peoples. Total fouls: Lincoln 17, Clay Central 18. Officials: Teel, Williams, Caldwell.

Lincoln 44, Clay Central 42
Karelynn Harmon 0 0-0 0, Carlee Mullinax 2 0-0 5, Taylor Lett 0 0-0 0, Amaz Carmichael 7 10-15 24, Helimah BinYamin 2 0-2 4, Jayla Morris 1 0-1 2, Hannah Carmichael 2 0-0 4, Taylor Conway 2 0-0 5. Totals 16 11-18 44.

CLAY CENTRAL – Ashley McNeil 0 0-0 0, Alicia McNeil 0 0-0 0, Claire Daugherty 1 4-6 6, Ahnyah Denny 6 1-1 17, Cidney Daugherty 2 0-0 5, Rilee Blair 0 0-0 0, Abby Cantrell 0 0-0 0, Essence Cunningham 2 5-10, Angel Jennings 2 0-0 4. Totals 13 10-17 38.

Lincoln 6 16 9 13 — 44
Clay Central 3 15 12 12 — 42

3-point goals: Lincoln 2 (Mullinax, Conway); Clay Central 6 (Denny 4, Daugherty, Ci. Daugherty, Cunningham). Fouled out: A. Carmichael, Conway. Total fouls: Lincoln 15, Clay Central 13.

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