ROGERSVILLE - The Cherokee Chiefs advanced to the Region 1-3A
Finals with an exciting, knock-down, drag-out, 66-58 win over Dobyns-Bennett Tuesday night before a
raucus crowd at the Tee Pee.
Cherokee (25-7) will battle Science Hill (32-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday
at Cherokee for the Region 1-3A Championship. The Hilltoppers defeated Morristown East, 64-44,
earlier Tuesday in the first semifinal to advance to the title game.
Tuesday night's win -
Cherokee's fourth straight over perennial power Dobyns-Bennett - also guarantees the Chiefs a spot
in the substate tournament.
"What gets lost in the postseason is how much larger that school is
than ours," said Cherokee coach Jeremy Parrott. "For us to pull something off like that is just
amazing. That's the fourth time we've gotten them. It's such a credit to our kids. For us to have it
happen at home, it just couldn't be any more special for us."
The game was tight
D-B took an
early 11-6 advantage, but Cherokee stormed back to take a 17-13 lead after one quarter as the Chiefs
nailed four three-pointers in the first, two by Ty Ryans.
James Scales, who led all scorers with 32 points, scored seven
points in both the first and second periods, as the Chiefs took a 31-30 lead into the break.
"I was just being aggressive.
Coach told me to be aggressive before the game," Scales said. "I felt really comfortable. I've been
getting a lot of shots up this week. I just went out there and tried to be aggressive and the shots
went down for me."
Chiefs appear to have snapped out of their late-season lull and are playing like the team that
rolled to a 17-4 start, playing good team defense, working the ball around on offense and hitting
seven three-pointers Tuesday - four by Ryans, two by Zack Elkins and one by Scales.
"We've been in a slump. We've
just practiced," Ryans said. "We've just had to focus and settle down, get our nerves to go away and
just focus on the rim. When the shots go in, everything just goes to another level - defense,
Cherokee stuck to its game plan of guarding the paint despite some
early outside success of its own by D-B.
"We felt like they had some trouble earlier in the season making
outside shots, so we were going to try to just contain them. I'll be doggone if they didn't come out
and just start making everything," Parrett said.
"We just told them at halftime we're going to stick to our game
plan. We get a lead, we're going to do some things differently defensively late in the game and it
just happened to work out that way," he said.
It worked brilliantly.
D-B took a 47-45 lead into the fourth but was quickly tied up on a
Scales layup. After a Conner Mitchell putback, Scales tied it again at 49 with two free throws.
Then the Chiefs threw the
defensive wrinkle at the Indians.
A sudden half-court trap forced a D-B turnover, which Scales
converted into a pull-up jumper. Tanner Trent followed up with a steal and fastbreak layup that
extended Cherokee's lead to 53-49.
After D-B's Ty'leke Love missed the front end of a one-and-one, the
aggressive Chiefs attacked the basket, with Scales scoring on a putback to put Cherokee up,
Mitchell missed two
free throws on the ensuing possession and when Zach Elkins bombed in a three-pointer from the corner
to increase the Chiefs' lead to 58-49, the crowd went delirious.
A Devoun Swafford free throw
finally stopped the Chiefs' 11-0 run, but the damage was already done. The crowd was rocking and the
Chiefs weren't about to let this one get away in the final 3:45.
"Overall we played pretty good
team defense. We didn't protect the basket very well, but we took a couple of charges. I thought we
played pretty good defense overall," Scales said.
The Indians twice cut the lead to five, the last time at 1:52, but
they could get no closer. Scales hit six of nine free throws down the stretch to clinch the win, the
trip to the region final, the berth in the substate, and the most wins in school history.
"All glory goes to God,"
Scales said. "We worked our butts off this year and the results came. It's amazing. A lot of people
have come close. I'm glad we finally got it."
"It's indescribable," said Ryans, who scored 16. "Making history,
being the best team in Cherokee history feels pretty good."
A berth in the substate makes all those hours in the gym
worthwhile, Parrott said.
"It's an amazing thing. We'll drill that home to them that no
matter what happens Thursday, (we'll play in the substate). We're not discounting (Thursday's) game
at all. There's an opportunity to win just like there was tonight. But it does guarantee us some
more. That's really the great thing about tonight's win," he said.
"My family will tell you I
spend a lot of time away from them and sometimes you wonder if all the time you're investing is
worth it," Parrott said. "You know it is in the lives of the kids, because they come back and talk
to you. But to get something like this that they will always remember is just really special."
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