The victory lifted the fifth-seeded Eagles (15-11) into Monday’s semifinals, where they will take on No. 1 seed Wheeler. The win also advanced Etowah into the state playoffs for the first time in four years.
“This is a great win for this team and this program,” Etowah coach Don Hurlburt said. “Not only did we qualify for state, but we also beat all of the teams in the county. Those were goals we set for our program this year.
“We felt like we could win this game coming in and that the matchup was good for us. Our kids made shots and gutted it out down the stretch.”
Fourth-seeded Cherokee (16-10) saw its season come to a close. After beginning the season with wins in 13 of their first 14 games, the Warriors went 3-9 down the stretch.
Etowah quickly established itself offensively, jumping out to a 12-1 lead. However, a 3-pointer from Jeremiah Gill ignited a 10-0 Cherokee run, leaving the Eagles with a 12-11 first-quarter lead.
The game was tight from that point on. Cherokee took its first lead at 16-14 following a jumper from Gill and remained in front 22-20 at halftime.
Cole Dotson’s jumper with 2:15 left in the third period tied the contest for Etowah, which went in front 32-31 at the end of the frame.
Gill, who had nine of his 13 points in the first half, nailed a jumper early in the fourth quarter to give Cherokee a one-point advantage.
Etowah switched to a 2-3 zone defense over the final 8 minutes that contributed to late surge. Destin Porche scored four of his 11 points during the Eagles’ 9-0 run and they went 7-for-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Zach Kvam’s steal led to layup for Gill, cutting the margin to 41-38 with 46.3 seconds left, but Cherokee couldn’t get the points it needed to get any closer.
“I felt like that zone really helped us,” Hurlburt said. “We got off to a good start and then relaxed, but with that zone, as long as we knew where Kvam and Gill were, we felt like we’d be OK.”
Jack Shaughnessy had three 3-pointers and led Etowah with 14 points. He also had four rebounds and two steals.
Willie McClure had nine points and three assists for Cherokee, while Jovan Morris chipped in six points and five rebounds.
“Their zone affected us in the fourth quarter,” Cherokee coach Roger Kvam said. “(Etowah) made the plays and we didn’t. We had shots at the end and didn’t make them. Etowah’s a good team and you have to give them credit for getting the win.”