ROGERSVILLE — With basketball’s postseason looming large, Cherokee got a big boost of confidence by pulling out a pressure-packed 56-50 decision over rival Volunteer on Saturday.
With the score deadlocked at 48 late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs dominated the final three minutes of play to pick up a huge victory over their cross-county rivals.
“You’ve got to feel good about seeing that at the end of the season,” Cherokee coach Jeremy Parrott said. “You start to see your team make free throws, hit some shots when they need to and just take care of the ball.
“That gives you a little tournament feel and makes you feel good. I’m happy we were able to win, because it could have gone either way.”
The Falcons, on the other hand, were headed back to the drawing board after building an 11-point lead in the third quarter and letting it slip away thanks in part to turnovers.
According to Volunteer coach Todd Whittemore, losses like the one Saturday have become all too familiar.
“Once again, we’ve proved that we can’t handle pressure,” he said. “The game got tough and we got soft. Playing scared, playing on our heels — we had an 11-point lead in this gym and we have no excuses.”
After Jon Eric Buck hit a layup on the first play of the second half to give Cherokee a 24-23 lead, the Falcons embarked on a 16-4 run to build a 39-24 advantage late in the third period.
Volunteer was able to move the ball well against Cherokee’s man-to-man defense during this stretch, opening up the passing lanes and allowing senior post Cameron Trent to score 11 second-half points.
Parrott finally made an adjustment, and it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for the Chiefs.
“It was either change some things they were looking at or battle possession for possession down to the wire and you don’t want to do that,” he said.
Once Cherokee switched to an aggressive 1-3-1 zone that featured plenty of traps in the corners, the Chiefs were able to close out the third quarter on a 10-2 run.
Cherokee took the lead for good on a Matt Hale foul shot with 2:05 remaining in the game and outscored the Falcons 7-2 from there to seal the deal.
“I thought we tried to do the right things,” Whittemore said. “But the bottom line is when we got pressured, we saw something different and, instead of doing what we do in practice to beat that, we want to go dribbling.”
Logan Bailiff led Cherokee (14-12) with 15 points while James Scales scored 13 and Hale had 12.
Christian Green and Devon Forgety netted 13 points each to lead the Falcons (6-16) while Trent added 12.
The Lady Chiefs made it a clean sweep by beating the Lady Falcons 58-45.
Casey Ryans and Christina Maddox combined to score to score 28 points as Cherokee (6-15) dominated the painted area.
Ryans finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Maddox notched 12 points and eight boards.
Ashley Lindholm had 11 points for Volunteer (8-13) while Miranda Adkins added 10.