With the best record of any team in the county, the Lady Warriors (7-1, 4-0) are on their best start since the 2008-09 season.
Rather than winning by relying on a select few players, Cherokee coach Matt Cates has made sure to emphasize the importance of teamwork to his squad.
“Playing as a team has been a huge thing for us,” said Cates, who is in his 13th year at the school. “Our kids have played very well together, very unselfish with sharing the ball and the limelight.”
Cherokee’s willingness to get everyone on the team involved was evident last Friday in its win over undefeated Woodstock. The Lady Warriors’ three leading scorers on the night were all within three points of one another.
“Out stats are pretty even across the board, as our kids have been pretty balanced this year,” Cates said. “I don’t think there has been one individual player that has stood out. It has just been a culmination of all our players so far.”
“We have all contributed,” said senior forward Morgan Darby. “It’s not just about one player, it’s been about everybody playing together and playing hard.”
Offensively, the Lady Warriors have averaged 54 points a game — among the best totals in the region — but it’s not just the offense that has stood out to Cates. Rather, it’s their defense, which has grown stronger as the year has progressed.
“With this group of kids, we have tried to be a better defensive team,” Cates said. “The main focus for us is to get some defensive stops. That is going to have to happen for us to have success.”
Cherokee’s defensive improvements were evident Tuesday against Roswell, in which it allowed only 15 points for the entire contest.
“I think our defense has been a great part of our game,” Darby said. “We have been working really hard on it, and it has really taken a big step up for us.”
Despite the solid displays Cherokee has turned in so far this year, Cates is not content to let the team rest on its laurels.
“We are still not where we need to be. We have to keep making improvements daily,” Cates said. “We have a long way to go.”
Though Cates is pleased to see his team leading the region, he said that only once the season was over would the standings actually matter.
“We are very fortunate to be (in first place), but it’s who’s on top in the end,” Cates said. “Our region is going to be changing night in and night out. A number of teams could win it.”
The Lady Warriors’ last region championship came in 2008, which means than no player on the current squad has ever won a title.
That’s something Darby hopes to see changed.
“It would mean so much to me to win the region,” she said. “I’ve dreamed about it. Hopefully, this year we can actually win it.”
Though Darby was quick to acknowledge that Cherokee still had a lot of games left to play in its quest to claim the region, she is excited to see how the year played out.
“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season,” she said. “I can’t wait to see how far we go.”