A solid, concerted effort by the Cherokee Braves fell short in a low-scoring, defensive-minded Lakes Conference battle here Friday night, resulting in a narrow 44-38 win by a good Spirit Lake club.
Cherokee led 14-13 after the first quarter and 23-21 at halftime, before being outscored 14-9 in the third quarter to fall behind 35-32 heading into the final eight minutes. The bad fortune for the Braves was the incredible fact they were locked on 32 points for more than eight minutes spanning the third and fourth periods. A six-point fourth frame then did them in big time, as the Indians provided just enough offense to sneak out of town with the victory.
Dillon Moye led Cherokee's scoring with 11 points, nine of those in a positive first half. Matt Koch and Brock Dagel each tallied eight points, and Lakes rebound leader Kyle Schuck, saddled with early foul trouble, snagged six points and six rebounds in the game. Dagel grabbed seven boards to lead the Braves in that category, and also registered four blocks to stay among the state leaders in that department. Koch also totaled a resounding eight assists in a yeoman team effort.
The Braves netted 15-33 field goals for 45 percent, and cashed in on 6-10 free throws. The Indians shot three times as many free throws, and scored 10 more points than the Braves at the free throw line, with a 16-29 effort, thank you very much, fair officials. Spirit Lake meshed 14-39 shots for a chilly 36 percent, but made up that discrepancy at the foul line.
Mason Berquist led the Indians' scoring with 13 points.
"i'm happy with the way we played, even though we lost," said Cherokee coach Trent Coombs. "We were up 23-17 late in the first half and then fired a careless three and had a costly turnover, instead of running the offense that got us there. We were in the game, but missed some shots at clutch time and that killed us. Scoring just six points in the fourth quarter against their spread defense hurt us.
"But, we've come a long ways since early season. We played bad basketball early, but we've cleaned up our game, cut down on turnovers, and now we need to get every player on the same page with the same team attitude. The players who do that will play for me. I'm proud of 'em, even though we lost."
The Braves host Storm Lake Tuesday night.