With 20 seconds left in Cherokee Bluff’s opening game against South Forsyth at the Chicken City Classic in Gainesville Monday evening, head coach Benjie Wood called a timeout to address his team. The Bears were trailing by 4 points and in dire need of a couple big plays, but Wood kept his message simple and direct.
“Stay together,” he said. “Stay together. Stay together. Stay together.”
And they did.
Bosko Norman and Griffin Neville hit a pair of 3-pointers — the second of which tied the game with 3.5 seconds left in regulation — and then Corey Thomas scored 4 points in overtime to lead Cherokee Bluff to a 62-59 win over the War Eagles.
After a couple of close losses last week, the victory was exactly what the Bears were hoping for to get their season back on track.
“We needed something good to happen,” Wood said. “Those kids fought, and we needed something good to happen, so I’m happy for my kids.”
Neville scored 24 points on the night to lead the way for Cherokee Bluff, and the Bears needed all of them. He put in his first 6 in the first quarter, a defensive battle that Cherokee Bluff won to take a 9-6 advantage after the opening eight minutes.
South Forsyth battled back into the lead in the second quarter thanks to an 11-4 run through the middle of the frame that put the War Eagles on top by 2 points at halftime. South Forsyth extended that lead to 5 after the third, but a late run from the Bears — featuring 8 points inside the final 30 seconds of regulation — was enough to help Cherokee Bluff to battle into overtime and eventually claim the win.
“We showed a lot of grit today,” Wood said. “We’re still not playing well, but we showed a lot of grit.”
Here are a few more local scores from Monday’s action at the Chicken City Classic:
SOUTH FORSYTH GIRLS 74, CHEROKEE BLUFF 42: Madi Phillips scored 18 points in an attempt to keep the Lady Bears competitive, but South Forsyth’s offensive onslaught was too much for Cherokee Bluff to overcome.
The Lady Bears actually scored the first 5 points of the contest, but a quick 14-0 run helped the Lady War Eagles regain the lead, and they never looked back. South Forsyth extended its lead to 18 at halftime and then 32 after the third quarter.
A quick 6 points from Phillips in the fourth frame was not enough for Cherokee Bluff to even threaten a comeback in a lopsided affair.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 54, THERRELL 28: Juniors Sadie Roach and Lauren Teasley combined for 39 points, and the Lady Elephants dominated Therrell defensively, holding the Lady Panthers to six made shots from the field in an overwhelming victory.
Gainesville was slow to get going — scoring only 8 points in the first quarter — but added 40 more points in the second and third frames, using runs of 14-0 and 11-0 to burst into the lead. A late rally from Therrell made the score appear a bit closer than the game itself actually was, but the Lady Red Elephants still cruised easily to the win.
“The kids played as hard as they possibly could,” Gainesville coach Alan Griffin said. “Obviously there are some areas we’ve got to clean up, but we hustled and worked our tails off.”
DENMARK BOYS 60, GAINESVILLE 45: In their first game hosting at the inaugural Chicken City Classic, the Red Elephants struggled to get anything going after a hot start in the loss to the Danes.
Gainesville led 8-7 halfway through the first quarter, but went cold from there, as Denmark rattled off a 19-1 run that spanned the closing minutes of the opening frame and the opening ones of the second period.
A 9-0 spurt from the Red Elephants in the back half of the second quarter kept them in contention at halftime, but Denmark jumped right back out of reach early in the third, preventing any sort of Gainesville comeback from ever materializing.