By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
BRYSON CITY – For the second time in the regular season, Cherokee swept Swain County. In a road game on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 30, the Lady Braves (11-5) beat the Lady Maroon Devils by 30-points (75-45), and the Braves (12-3) followed suit with a 98-75 win.
The Lady Braves were fresh off of a heartbreaking 3-point loss at Murphy on Saturday. “Saturday was a pretty emotional game for us, and we came out tonight and were a little flat early,” said Chris Mintz, Lady Braves head coach. “It took us about a half to get to the way that we play basketball. In the second half, we did a pretty good job of creating a tempo and making it our type of game.”
He added, “We haven’t been able to press successfully all year long as we haven’t been playing good, hard defense. The better we play defense, the more points we get. It’s to our advantage for the game to go really fast because we don’t have a lot of height.”
Tori Teesateskie led Cherokee with 19 points followed by Raylen Bark 11, Shelby Wolfe 10, and Timiyah Brown 9.
The first quarter was close with Swain jumping out to an early lead. They led 13-5 at the 3:08 mark and led 13-12 at the end of the quarter. From the 3:08 mark of the first, the Lady Braves went on a 16-2 run to take a 21-15 lead two minutes into the second quarter. Cherokee led by 12-points (32-20) at the half.
The third quarter was all Lady Braves as they outscored Swain 22-9 to lead 54-29 after three. Cherokee was able to get some good bench play in the fourth quarter, and they took the 75-45 win.
Other Lady Braves scorers included: Carla Wolfe 5, Jamie Lossiah 3, Naomi Smith 4, Deante Toineeta 8, and Jacee Smith 6. Lady Maroon Devils scorers included: Ashton Younce 12, Kierra Shook 4, Bri Ross 3, Grace Cabe 18, and Taylor Collins 8.
The Braves won their tenth in a row on Tuesday evening and remain unbeaten in the Big Smoky Mountain Conference.
“We responded in the second half,” said Aaron Hogner, Braves head coach. “The first half was kind of up-and-down. We’d make some runs, but then we’d slack on some things defensively and offensively, we quit doing some things that help us to be successful. But, in the second half, we picked it up and finished the game off.”
Tye Mintz led Cherokee with 27 points, 3 blocked shots, and 8 rebounds followed by Sterling Santa Maria with 17 points. Holden Straughan and Josiah Lossiah both had complete games. Straughan ended with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals, and Lossiah had 6 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals.
The first few minutes of the game were very close with Cherokee leading 9-7 at the 5:24 mark of the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Braves had extended that lead to 24-17.
Swain closed the gap in the second, and Cherokee led 28-25 at the 4:56 mark. From there, Cherokee went on an 8-2 run to lead 36-27 with 3:32 left before the half. But again, the Maroon Devils came back, and Cherokee’s lead had shrunk to 3-points (43-40) at the half.
The Braves did respond in the second half, and the third quarter was all Cherokee as they outscored Swain 30-13 to lead by 20-points (73-53) going into the fourth. Like the Lady Braves, due to the lead, the Braves were able to get some good bench play in the final quarter, and they ended up with a 98-75 victory.
Other Braves scorers included: Tihjah Lossiah 14, Justus Day 9, Shannon Albert 2, Cade Mintz 2, Matthew Climbingbear 3, and Isaiah Evans 3. Maroon Devils scorers included: Brier Younce 23, Zeke Bradley 12, Jesse Waldroup 5, Gaige Southards 10, Hunter Call 3, Seth Parker 8, Bradley Vestal 12, and Jack Stuckey 2.
With the regular season winding down and the playoffs looming, Coach Hogner is happy with how his team is progressing, but notes they’re still improving. “We still have to pick up our defensive intensity. We’re rotating better as far as the help defense, but we can always get better at that. And, we need to just play fast, getting these guys to push the ball up the court and make more than two or three passes before we get a shot off. Our shooting percentage goes up when we make about four or five passes and beyond. We’re breaking defenses down, and it helps us get easier shots.”