But fans had to wait until the second half to see if the Warriors would give a big lead away, as they did in that first loss to Sequoyah. In that game, Cherokee led 22-1 after the first quarter only to see the Chiefs switch defenses and slowly steal the game away.
On Friday, night Cherokee was able to hold onto its lead and finished with a 50-33 victory.
Coach Roger Kvam said a key for his players was coming back in the second half after a slow second quarter. The Warriors (9-1) led 20-10 after the first quarter, but River Ridge (7-4) closed the gap to 24-19 by the half.
Cherokee, however, came out strong again in the third to take a 40-28 lead. River Ridge scored just five points in the final period.
“We have gotten off to a couple of good starts recently,” Kvam said. “We talked about it at halftime, coming out and having a good quarter. I think Jeremiah (Gill) really took it upon himself to really step it up, and he had a big quarter being aggressive offensively.”
Cherokee was led by Gill, who netted 16 points including a pair of 3-pointers. Willie McClure added 11 points, with nine coming from behind the arc. Jovan Morris rounded out the Warriors in double-digits with 14 points.
Cherokee connected for five 3-pointers in the game.
Nick Masterson led River Ridge with 15 points — and Kvam was pleased his players were able to hold him to that.
“We put a big effort into stopping Masterson defensively,” Kvam said. “He really is a good player and we felt like we would have to do a good job on him to win. I’ve seen (River Ridge) play probably three times and he is really the key to the team. Between Jack Carroll and Zack Kvam — the Jack-and-Zack connection — they played him great. We talked to our guys about focusing on (Masterson) and Jack Carroll, for a freshman, did an outstanding job.”
Zack Kvam and Carroll are several inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Masterson, but they did an effective job defending him when he posted up.
“They were making it hard for him to catch the ball,” Roger Kvam said. “When he did catch the ball, we were quickly to double up on him. I think our defense was outstanding all night even in that second quarter when the offense wasn’t.”