By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Both Cherokee varsity basketball teams started the new year off right with home wins over rival Swain County on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 2 at the Charles George Memorial Arena. The Lady Braves improved to 3-4 on the year with a 71-63 win over the Lady Maroon Devils, and the Braves moved over .500 on the season (4-3) with a 65-51 victory.
“We turned the ball over way too many times, especially with them not really putting any pressure on us,” said Chris Mintz, Lady Braves head coach. “We’ve just got to get better at handling the ball and doing the little things right and I think we’ll be fine.”
Coach Mintz said the win could easily serve as a catalyst for their season, “It’s always great to beat Swain. There were a lot of people here tonight. We didn’t play our best, but we came out with a win and we just have to keep building off of every game.”
Following a slow start in the first few minutes, the Lady Braves jumped out to a 14-5 lead midway through the first and led 16-11 at the end of the quarter. The Lady Maroon Devils came back and tied the game at 18-18 early in the second, but Cherokee went on a 13-4 run to lead 31-22 at the half.
Swain County came back again though and chipped away at the Lady Braves’ lead throughout the third, and Cherokee led 49-46 going into the final quarter. Swain County tied the ballgame at 54-54 with 4:44 left, and Tori Teesateskie hit two three-point shots in a row to put Cherokee up 60-54 – a lead they would not relinquish. Those shots sparked the Lady Braves who went on a 17-9 run to end the game and take the win.
Teesateskie led Cherokee with 19 points, including four three-point shots, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals. She was followed by Deante Toineeta 15 points and 3 steals, Timiyah Brown 13 and 3 steals, and Shelby Wolfe with 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Other Cherokee scorers included: Raylen Bark 8, Carla Wolfe 2, and Jamie Lossiah 2.
Stats were unavailable for the Lady Maroon Devils.
The boys game saw both teams starting slowly. Midway through the first quarter, the game was deadlocked at 2-2, and the score at the end of the first was 9-7. Neither team shot well in this contest with Cherokee shooting 37.1 percent overall and 27.8 percent from three-point land. Swain County was 39 percent overall and 17 percent on three-point attempts.
“We’re still growing and getting them in the habit of doing things right all the time,” said Aaron Hogner, Braves first-year head coach. “We’re making simple turnovers and just need to start playing consistently and getting rebounds. I think teams are still out-hustling us. There are a lot of things that we need to work on, but it was a big win. We pulled it out so that’s a positive.”
The game stayed close through three quarters with Swain County leading 29-26 at the half and Cherokee leading 43-41 after the third. The Braves came out in the fourth firing on all cylinders and outscored the Maroon Devils 22-10 to take the win.
Tye Mintz led Cherokee with 22 points followed by Justus Day 13 and Tihjah Lossiah 11. Mintz also led with 12 rebounds followed by Sterling Santa Maria with 10. Holden Straughan also contributed in various aspects on the night with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals.
Other Cherokee scorers included: Isaiah Evans 1, Santa Maria 6, and Zak Perez 2.
Gaige Southards led the Maroon Devils with 16 points followed by Bradley Vestal with 11. Other Swain County scorers included: Zeke Bradley 9, Jesse Waldroup 6, Hunter Call 2, and Seth Parker 6.