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High school basketball: Cherokee Bluff takes down Lumpkin County in first round of Region 7-3A tournament to earn spot in Class 3A state playoffs
Cherokee Bluff's Dre Raven goes in for a layup against Lumpkin County on Tuesday at Greater Atlanta Christian.

Cherokee Bluff’s shooting was strong from the beginning, especially from long range. 

To open the Region 7-3A tournament, Griffin Neville knocked down a handful of first-half 3-pointers and freshman Cade Simmons made a pair of 3s as the Bears rolled to a 72-50 win against Lumpkin County on Tuesday at Greater Atlanta Christian. 

The Bears (16-10) were equally proficient pumping the ball inside the paint for easy baskets, including back-to-back layups from Jacob Carlson and Carlos Marlowe late in the first quarter to make their lead 21-11. 

Now, Cherokee Bluff gets a two-day hiatus before playing again Friday for a chance to earn a home court game to open state next week.

“I’m extremely proud of this team,” Bears coach Benjie Wood said. “We came out ready to play today.

“We had a terrible practice (Monday), but came back in to talk this morning and I could tell they were ready to play.”

With the win, the Bears (16-10) are a lock for the playoffs for the first time in school history, avenging a 1-point loss to East Hall at this same point in 2019. 

First, Cherokee Bluff will face Dawson County in the region semifinals Friday at East Hall. 

Leading by 10 in the opener in Lilburn, Cherokee Bluff got a quick start to the second quarter with a 3-ball from Simmons. Then the Bears started to pile up the points as Neville, who scored a game-high 20, knocked down back-to-back 3-point shots midway through the second quarter. 

Bosko Norman finished with 11 points for Cherokee Bluff, while Jason Evrett added 10. 

According to Neville, it was a total team effort.

“We’ve worked so hard all season for this and we’re so excited to be going to the playoffs,” said Neville, still in disbelief about the untimely death of his childhood idol Kobe Bryant. “We’re trying to play with a Mamba mentality.”

Defensively, Dre Raven grabbed a steal and went in uncontested on the other end for a basket to make the score 35-15. 

Simmons knocked down another 3-pointer just before halftime, giving Cherokee Bluff another lead in excess of 20 points. The Bears built it to as big as 31 points in the third quarter before pulling the starters for the rest of the game inside the Long Forum. 

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