HULL - Cherokee's battling Braves shot a blistering 60 percent from the field and raced out to a 41-33 halftime lead over second-ranked Hull Western Christian here Tuesday night, only to falter late and drop an exciting 79-70 Lakes Conference verdict.
The 10-5 Braves landed four players in double figures in their yeoman effort against the 15-2 Wolfpack, but it was not to be enough after a questionable call by the officials led the way to a HWC threeball in the final minute that handed the Wolfpack the cushion to absorb the win.
Matt Pitts led Cherokee's scoring with 16 points, followed by Cody Ege 14, Brock Dagel 12, and Seth Mahnke 10. Mahnke also grabbed eight rebounds, and Ege led his team in assists and steals with four of each. Dagel had two blocked shots.
Matt Westra led HWC with 16 points, followed by David DenHerder 14, Tyler Wolterstorf 12, Bryce Groeneweg 11, and Dustin Douma 10.
Cherokee sank 25-42 field goals for 60 percent, including 7-12 from the three-point line, and cashed in 13-24 free throws.
The Wolfpack made a whopping 27-40 free throws for a decisive 14-point advantage at the line that was the difference in the outcome. HWC netted 24-46 shots for a hot 52 percent, including 4-11 threeballs.
HWC went on a 22-13 scoring run in the third quarter to regain the lead at 55-54 heading into the final frame.
"We started the game very sharp, but were a little over aggressive defensively and got into some foul trouble in the second quarter," said Cherokee coach Bob Lee, who had his team ready to play the perennial Lakes Conference champions.
"Our bench (Zac Woods, Cole Renken, Jakob Hummel, Kristian Freed) came in and kept the level of play up, closing out the first half and increasing our lead to eight points. We had some costly mistakes late in the game, and a team as good as Hull is going to take advantage of such mistakes."
The Braves host Spirit Lake tonight in Lakes Conference action.