HULL - Things went to Hull in a handbasket in a hurry here on Feb. 13th, as second-rated Hull Western Christian (19-1) outscored a gritty Cherokee Braves basketball team 43-22 in the second half on the way to a 73-45 Lakes Conference regular season-ender for both teams.
After HWC blew out to a 20-9 lead in the first quarter, Cherokee settled the ship and went on a 14-10 scoring advantage in the second period to make it a respectable 30-23 Wolfpack lead at halftime.
"But we wouldn't give, played good defense in the second quarter, and cut it to seven at halftime. We learned a lot in this game."
Seniors Matt Koch, with 17 points, and Tyler Jones with 14 led the Braves in scoring, as Cherokee started the second half flat and not mentally into the rigors of the game, and just what it takes to beat such a talented foe - especially at their place - according to Smith.
Shawn Keizer led the Wolfpack with 25 points, and Trevor Wolterstorff added 16. "We let Keizer get away on us," lamented Smith.
Kyle Schuck led Cherokee on the boards with nine rebounds, his 6-2 frame battling mightily against the 6-8 and 6-7 talls of HWC on the inside. Nick Parker had a superb floor game with five steals and five assists, while Koch and Cody Ege managed four assists each.
Cherokee sank 17-46 field gols for 37 percent, and cashed in just 5-7 free throws, compared to a lofty 19-25 by the home team.
"They penetrate, handle the ball, and finish their shots better than anyone we play," said Smith of the Wolfpack. "They make few mistakes."
The Braves had 18 turnovers, with the pre-game goal of 15 still in sight, knowing that, too often, HWC turns turnovers into lay-ups.
"They're an explosive team. In the first half we got good looks and the shots just wouldn't fall. I'll take those shots any game. They just didn't go in tonight. We played smart and learned a lot and hopefully this will help us in the tournament."