The Cherokee Bluff boys basketball team started hot Monday afternoon against East Hall, and rode that momentum to a 69-52 win in the first round Lanierland matchup.
The Bears scored the first 11 points of the contest, and East Hall never fully recovered.
After the game, Cherokee Bluff coach Benjie Wood said he was pleased with his team’s effort, but added that the group needs to make improvements if it wants to continue winning in the tournament’s later rounds.
“We’re playing hard, but we’re not playing very good,” he said. “We’ve just got to focus on us getting better. We’re going to have to clean some things up, but the kids are playing hard.”
The Bears got 20 points from Corey Thomas, while Christian Torres scored 21 to pace East Hall.
Cherokee Bluff looked sharp from the start of the game, getting 3s from Thomas and Jaylon Justice in the first two minutes of the opening quarter to take an 11-0 lead early. Defensively, the Bears were even better, holding every East Hall player except Torres scoreless in the first eight minutes.
Still, Torres scored 11 to keep the Vikings within 10 points one quarter in.
East Hall got 3s from Deondre Langston and Imre Earls early in the second frame to set off a 10-2 run that got the Vikings within a point, but Cherokee Bluff got back on track from there. The Bears scored 10 straight through the middle of the quarter to push the lead back up to double digits, and extended it with layups from Thomas and Carlos Marlow right before the half that put Cherokee Bluff up 36-24 at the break.
The Vikings kept pace with the Bears in the third quarter, but could not make up any ground and still trailed by 12 going into the fourth. Imre Earls hit on a trio of 3-pointers in the final frame to give East Hall one last shot at a comeback, but it was not enough to pull East Hall to the win.
With the victory, Cherokee Bluff will face the North Hall/West Hall winner at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals. East Hall will play the loser of North Hall/West Hall in the consolation round at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.