The Cherokee Braves, playing a smart, patient brand of basketball, gave the defending Class 2A state champion Hull Western Christian boys all they wanted in the first half here on Feb. 8, before a brutal 27-10 scoring run by the Wolfpack in the third quarter led to a resounding 86-50 Lakes Conference victory.
The regular-season ending game featured five HWC players hitting double figures against a gimpy Cherokee line-up playing without two varsity starters. Cherokee junior wing Matt Koch was out with an ankle injury, and senior guard Dillon Moye was battling illness the past few days and saw just brief action.
Junior Tyler Jones led the Cherokee scoring with 17 points, while sophomore Cody Ege pumped in 11, sophomore Matt Pitts nine, and freshman post Brock Dagel seven.
Dagel, at 6-6 one of the state's leaders in blocked shots, registered seven blocks against the quick-hitting Wolfpack offense, whose shortest player is tall.
Rated HWC (18-3) had five players hit double figures, with junior Trevor Wolterstorff leading the way with 16 points, followed by junior Curtis Van Grouw with 13, junior Shawn Keizer 12, senior Jeremy Zeutenhorst 10, and senior Kevin Fopma 10, nine of those on three first-half three-balls that kept the Wolfpack in control.
Cherokee sank 21-47 field goals for 47 percent, while the HWC boys made 31-67 shots for 46 percent.
A remarkable and silly statistic that makes a bold statement to the quality of the officiating was the fact HWC, which employs a physical, claw and grab defensive press as long as they can get away with it, made 17-25 free throws, to just 4-6 for the Braves.
Yo, even though they don't need the help, let the rich get richer.
"Even though we were short of help, we did well the first half against a very talented team," said Cherokee coach Trent Coombs. "They run, shoot the threes well, and crash the boards. When they click, they're tough to beat.
"Their hand-checking (on defense) and steals off fouls that weren't called hurt us all night. That's a tough combination to beat. We missed Matt and Dillon, especially in the second half when they made their run to get away."
The 4-17 Braves host 17-4 Westwood from the Maple Valley Conference at about 8 p.m. Feb. 11 in first-round, Class 2A District action. South O'Brien plays War Eagle Conference foe Akron-Westfield in the tourney opener here at 6:30 p.m.