Wheeler (7-4, 4-1) had struggled throughout the season to put together solid third quarters, but on Friday, it would be its highest-scoring period of the night, with 26 points falling.
Asha Abdur-Rahim was particularly strong. She netted a pair of 3-pointers and scored nine of her team-leading 16 points in the frame.
Tierra Steede finished with 15 points, and Lyric Hancock scored eight.
Wheeler coach Joel Howell said he wasn’t concerned about Cherokee rallying, even as the Lady Warriors closed the gap late in the game.
“We have been having trouble closing the game,” Howell said. “The third quarter has probably been our roughest. We have been averaging five to eight points in the third quarter. I knew we would pick things back up.”
Still, Howell said the team isn’t where he wants it to be at this point in the season.
“We are lacking basketball knowledge of where we should be and what we should be doing,” he said. “I would actually like to do less coaching and have them do more coaching of themselves on the floor. We are almost where we need to be, but we are slacking a little bit and behind where I would like to be.”
Cherokee coach Matt Cates said he was pleased to see his team battling late in the game, when they could have given up. He was also pleased to see his players score the 59 points how they did.
“I thought we played harder than we have played in a while,” Cates said. “I thought we executed better than we did lately. That is the most points that we have put up in a while. We’ve had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. You know, 59 is a lot of points for us to put up, so that was an improvement.”
Often, Cherokee (1-14, 1-4) have come out strong in the first half, only to falter after the break. This time, it was able to close to within five points with less 2 minutes left in the game.
At the 1-minute mark, the Lady Warriors were down just six.
Cates said the big difference was the way his players boxed out and rebounded in the second half. Wheeler, which had 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, was held to five after the break.
“The kids could have rolled over and didn’t, so I’m proud of them,” Cates said. “We fought back from down 16 in the third to trail by four. For a young team to do that, I think is a step in the right direction for them to do that.”
Cherokee was led by Loren Ware, who scored 16 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Jordan Cox added 13 points, and Bailee Gilbreath finished with eight.