The Cherokee Bluff boys basketball team dominated Gilmer completely in the second quarter of Tuesday’s region matchup, shutting out the visiting Bobcats for the last 9:23 of the first half and eventually rolling to a 74-36 win.
After the game, Bears coach Benjie Wood was all smiles as he proclaimed the contest “the best we’ve played all year.”
“Our kids committed,” he said. “We’ve been talking about the difference between being interested and committing. Our kids committed to playing defense, and I’m really proud of them.”
The effort comes just a day after a productive Monday practice that Wood referred to as a “come-to-Jesus moment,” adding that he hopes the dominating effort is a turning point in the season.
Shad Dabney scored 15 to lead the way for the Bears, but it was team basketball and consistent defense that ultimately won the day.
Cherokee Bluff (10-7, 5-1 Region 7-3A) looked sluggish immediately out of the gate, falling into an early 8-point hole, but the Bears flipped a switch toward the end of the first. Carlos Marlowe scored 4 points in a quick 7-0 flurry to finish off the opening period, and Cherokee Bluff kept things rolling in the second.
Switching to a full-court press, the Bears stymied Glimer’s offense completely, preventing the Bobcats from advancing past half court for the first several minutes of the second frame and grabbing several consecutive steals that turned into easy buckets.
Marlowe stole four balls alone in the frame, as the Bears kept up consistent pressure and prevented Gilmer (3-7, 1-3) from even getting any clean shots up.
Outside of four free throw attempts, which the Bobcats missed all of them, the visiting team had very few scoring opportunities in the second quarter at all, falling into a 19-point deficit at halftime as Cherokee Bluff outscored them 20-0 in the eight-minute second period.
And the Bears didn’t let up in the second half.
After battling back and forth for much of the third frame, Cherokee Bluff locked back in toward the end of it, finishing the quarter off on a 9-0 run to push the lead all the way up to 27, the highest it had been all night, going into the fourth.
The Bears subbed most of their starters out for the final quarter, but even the backup players could do no wrong against Gilmer, and there was plenty for the Cherokee Bluff crowd to get excited about despite the fact that the game was no longer competitive.
The cheering reached its peak with about two minutes left to play when senior Eric Gohman grabbed a steal and slammed home a one-handed dunk that brought both the Bears supporters in the bleachers and the home team’s bench to their feet.
“Like I said, I’m really proud of our kids,” Wood said. “Our whole thing is we focus on the process and doing things the right way. Everybody seems to be coming around. Hopefully we can continue getting better.”
GILMER GIRLS 53, CHEROKEE BLUFF 47: The Lady Bears (5-12, 1-5) started strong in Tuesday’s region matchup against Gilmer, but a cold streak through the middle of the fourth quarter doomed the home team in the loss to the visiting Lady Bobcats.
After the loss, Cherokee Bluff coach Lindsay Justice said the close contest against a tough opponent could actually be good for her team’s confidence.
“Gilmer is a really good team with a great record,” Justice said. “They’ve beaten some really good teams. I’m hoping this shows them they can play with anybody.”
Timber Gaither and Kaitlin Cook each scored 10 points to lead Cherokee Bluff, while Taylor Click added 9, all coming from 3-point range.
Click started the scoring for the Lady Bears with a pair of early 3s in the first quarter that put Cherokee Bluff up 6-0.
The Lady Bobcats (9-2, 4-0) worked their way back steadily from there, getting the deficit to just 3 points by the end of the first quarter and taking their first lead less than two minutes into the second.
The Lady Bears went cold offensively for much of the second frame, and Gilmer runs of 7-0 and 7-3 at the beginning and end of the period helped to put the Lady Bobcats on top 25-21 at halftime.
Cherokee Bluff came out of the break hot, starting the third quarter out on a 13-1 run to put Gilmer on its heels, but the Lady Bears fell off track from there and couldn’t get back on as the Lady Bobcats began to make their run.
Gilmer put together a 12-2 run of its own to go back ahead near the end of the third frame, and Cherokee Bluff could not answer back.
The Lady Bobcats finished things off with a cool and collected performance from the free throw line, hitting 7 of 8 shots from the charity stripe in the fourth to ice the game.
“We’re improving, and that’s what our goal is, is to be better in the end than we were in the beginning,” Justice said. “I think our girls played hard. We just had too many missed opportunities. It’s just little things that make a big difference in a close game like that, and unfortunately those things were detrimental to us tonight.”