Over two days at the Chicken City Classic at Gainesville High, the Cherokee Bluff boys basketball team made itself right at home.
The Bears followed up a win over South Forsyth on Monday evening with another victory on Tuesday, taking down Forsyth Central this time, 65-62.
Griffin Neville and Corey Thomas led the way for Cherokee Bluff, with Neville scoring a game-high 21 points, and Thomas contributing a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double to power the Bears to their second straight win.
“We played with a ton of guts,” Bears coach Benjie Wood said. “We played really hard.”
And while Cherokee Bluff did pull out the win in the end, the first half certainly went much smoother than the second.
Thomas started things off with four quick layups to ease the Bears into an 8-2 lead and set the tone for the remainder of the game. Neville hit on a 3-pointer right at the two-minute mark, and Jason Evrett scored as time expired in the opening frame to put Cherokee Bluff on top 17-4 through eight minutes of play.
Forsyth Central came out hot in the second quarter with a 13-3 run that brought the Bulldogs back to within 3 points of the lead, but a pair of 3s from Neville and Cade Simmons right before halftime kept the Bears advantage at 4 points going into the break.
Cherokee Bluff watched that lead evaporate over the course of the third quarter, with Forsyth Central gradually chipping away before finally taking the lead on a 3-point play from Joakeim Celestin with less than 20 seconds to go in the period, but the Bears played with renewed vigor the rest of the way.
In the fourth quarter, Bosko Norman hit on a 3-pointer and completed a 3-point play off an and-1 shot that rolled around the rim several times before falling in. The Bears hit four big free throws in the final minute of game time to keep Forsyth Central at bay and claim their second win in two games at the Chicken City Classic.
It’s a streak that Wood hopes will give his team some momentum as it enters the bulk of the regular season schedule.
“It’s been great for us,” he said of the event. “We had two really good teams, two teams that are really well coached, and we had to execute. It’s been good for us. Hopefully we can use that as a stepping stone moving forward.”
FORSYTH CENTRAL GIRLS 56, CHEROKEE BLUFF 31: Timber Gaither scored 9 points for the Lady Bears, and Abi Whitaker added 8 in quick succession in the second quarter, but Cherokee Bluff could never truly find its footing in Tuesday’s loss to the Lady Bulldogs.
After the teams exchanged baskets to start the game, Forsyth Central scored 15 straight to close out the opening quarter and begin the second one, building a double-digit lead early on. Whitaker scored all 8 of her points on a personal 8-0 run through the middle of the second frame to close the lead to just 6, but it wasn’t enough to claw all the way back.
A 9-0 run from Forsyth Central to open the third quarter closed the door on any hope for a Lady Bears comeback.
SOUTH FORSYTH BOYS 69, GAINESVILLE 57: Robert Reisman put 13 points on the board for the Red Elephants, but a couple of long scoring droughts doomed the host team as it fell for the second night in a row at the Chicken City Classic.
Gainesville led by a basket after one quarter, but managed only 6 points in the second frame, falling into a 14-point halftime deficit.
South Forsyth’s Ethan Underwood hit on seven 3-pointers — three coming in the fourth quarter — to lead the War Eagles to victory.
SOUTH FORSYTH GIRLS 68, GAINESVILLE 46: Sadie Roach scored 14 for the Lady Red Elephants, putting in a trio of 3-pointers, but it was not enough to overcome South Forsyth’s dynamic offensive attack. The Lady War Eagles scored 22 points in the third quarter — consistently hitting both from the field and at the free throw line — to hold a healthy lead throughout the contest.
Gainesville’s best shot at contending came on a quick 9-2 run in the second quarter that tied things up with less than two minutes to go until halftime, but South Forsyth scored the final 10 points before the break to reclaim the momentum, and the Lady War Eagles never relinquished it for the remainder of the game.