By Robert Alfonso Jr.
For The Times
Cherokee Bluff boys basketball coach Benji Wood posed a challenge to his team Thursday night before its home region matchup against Lumpkin County: win the third quarter.
The first few minutes out of the half have been an Achilles heel all season for the Bears, but not on Thursday. A quick flurry of points out of the halftime break put Cherokee Bluff up by double-digits over the visiting Indians, leading to an eventual 75-63 victory.
“I challenged them,” Wood said. “They came out with a ton of energy.”
The Bears (13-10, 8-2 Region 7-3A) forced the Indians into several mistakes with the pressure. Cherokee Bluff took advantage of those turnovers for either easy baskets or open 3s. Confidence started building on the floor as the Bears bench provided the enthusiasm.
Shots fell from every angle on the floor all night for Cherokee Bluff. Senior Corey Thomas finished with a game-high 24 points, which included a three-pointer during Cherokee Bluff’s run out of the half. Cade Simmons and Carlos Marlow chipped in with 10 points apiece.
Lumpkin County (9-11, 3-7 Region 7-3A) looked rattled during the two to three minute stretch of constant pressure. This forced Indians coach Michael Parker to call back-to-back timeouts seconds apart from each other in hopes of getting his team back on track.
“I told them the first two to three minutes of the (third) quarter would basically determine the game,” said Parker of his halftime speech. “We didn’t handle it well.”
Cherokee Bluff’s next game is at home on Tuesday, February 2, against Dawson County.