After some shaky starts, county’s boys programs look to improve
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
January 16, 2014 01:04 AM | 1029 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cherokee’s Jeremiah Gill goes up for a shot between River Ridge’s Nick Masterson (11) and Ty Suwalski on Dec. 20. Both the Warriors and Knights are above .500 at the midway point of the season, with Gill and his Cherokee teammates coming off a win over Milton, which was previously unbeaten in Region 5AAAAAA play.
<BR>Staff photo by Todd Hull
Cherokee’s Jeremiah Gill goes up for a shot between River Ridge’s Nick Masterson (11) and Ty Suwalski on Dec. 20. Both the Warriors and Knights are above .500 at the midway point of the season, with Gill and his Cherokee teammates coming off a win over Milton, which was previously unbeaten in Region 5AAAAAA play.
Staff photo by Todd Hull
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Last season, four boys basketball teams from Cherokee County — Cherokee, Creekview, River Ridge and Sequoyah — advanced to the state playoffs.

Unless some changes are made in the second half of this season, it doesn’t look like that accomplishment will be repeated.

In the middle of February, region tournaments will be held to determine the four teams that will represent each region in their respective classification’s state tournament. Seeding for the region tournaments is based on how well a team performs against its region or subregion opponents during the course of the regular season, and higher-seeded teams have an easier road to the state tournament.

Often, No. 1 seeds receive a bye for the first one or two rounds, while the lower-seeded teams must win as many as three games in order to assure themselves a spot in the state tournament.

Teams in Region 5AAAAAA — Cherokee, Etowah and Woodstock — are at the midpoint of their region schedules. They have played each opponent once and will begin their second runthrough Friday.

Cherokee (14-3, 5-2), which inched out a 56-53 win over Etowah in the teams’ first meeting, will host the Eagles this time around. The Warriors are currently in the top four of their region a 42-40 upset of Milton on Tuesday.

Coach Roger Kvam said it doesn’t get much bigger than beating Milton, especially with the Eagles’ two 6-foot-8 standouts, Shawn O’Connell and Chris Lewis.

“We did a good job,” Kvam said. “It was back-and-forth. We were down six (points) at the half. We had a big run at the start of the second half and scored 12 straight to go up six.”

Cherokee was down five with 2:30 left in the game, but a free throw and 3-pointer by Willie McClure cut the Milton lead to one. After the Warriors stopped the Eagles on their next possession and got the ball back with 16 seconds to play, Jeremiah Gill passed the ball to freshman Jack Carroll, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner for the 42-40 lead.

Milton missed a shot at the buzzer to end the game.

Kvam said players don’t get much more clutch than Carroll did Tuesday night, when he was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.

“He hit some big 3s,” Kvam said. “When (Milton) was blowing us out at the beginning, he hit some 3s in the first half to keep us in it. He stepped up in the fourth and hit two big free throws and then the 3 to end it. He made big plays, plus he always guards the best kid on the other team. We always give him the toughest defensive assignment.”

Kvam, who has assistant coaches scout opponents before each game, knows Cherokee will have its hands full with Etowah’s Jack Shaughnessy and Destin Porche. The pair make up most of the offense for the Eagles (9-7, 2-4), who have won nine of their last 11 games after opening the season 0-5.

Woodstock has had a few close calls this season, including a 65-63 loss to Milton in double overtime, but it’s still looking for its first region win of the season. The Wolverines travel to Milton on Friday.

Creekview and Sequoyah are also preparing for their second swing through Region 7AAAAA (A) and will face each other Friday. Both programs reached the state playoffs last season, but they are in jeopardy of being left out this year.

Creekview (8-11, 5-4) hasn’t played very consistently. The Grizzlies put together a four-game winning streak just after Thanksgiving, but they hadn’t won consecutive games again since then until this week, when they defeated Forsyth Central and Cambridge.

Creekview will have a few different opponents in the second half of the season as it will match up with different teams from Region 7AAAAA (B).

The story is similar at Sequoyah (8-11, 5-4), but the Chiefs have yet to face Kell and Osborne after suffering losses to Pope and Sprayberry.

Unlike the other teams at the midpoint of their region slates, River Ridge is just getting started. The Knights played a full non-region schedule to open the season and were tested by a variety of opponents, including each of the other county teams.

The Knights (11-7, 2-0 Region 7AAAA) defeated Gilmer and Cedartown thus far, but they have games against Cass and Pickens remaining before they face the same four teams for a second time.
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