The formidable Cherokee Braves, keying off a stifling full-court press with sleight of hand artist Cody Ege at the point, erupted for a resounding 83-54 Lakes Conference boys basketball victory over a quality Spirit Lake team here Friday night.
The Braves exploded to a 22-14 lead in the first quarter on a series of full-court pressure turnovers, let the talented Indians back into it thanks to several poorly contested inside shots, and then blew it open with eight consecutive points in the closing 30 seconds of the first half to abscond with a 46-30 halftime lead.
Ege, Matt Pitts, Kyle Schuck, and Cole Renken led that Cherokee assault on the Indian guards late in the first half that helped spring the Braves from a tenuous 28-24 lead to that 16-point halftime bulge.
A 20-8 scoring run in the third quarter sealed the deal early as the shell-shocked Indians didn't have the firepower to overtake the Braves defense and balanced scoring down the stretch.
Matt Pitts came off the bench to lend solidarity and purpose to the Braves at both ends of the court and finished with 16 points, followed by Brock Dagel 13, Ege 11, and Kyle Schuck 11.
Drew Dau led Spirit Lake's scoring with 11 points, Paul Brown tallied 10, and Mitch Peschon seven, including the game's first points - a threeball and a taunting raised arm all the way back down court. He contributed little after that, thanks to Cherokee's stifling defense, mainly from Ege and Nick Parker.
Cherokee also received considerable help off the bench, with Zac Woods totaling eight points, and Cole Renken seven at critical times in the game.
The Braves sank 36-55 fielkd goals for a sizzling 65 percent, including 4-9 on threeballs. The Indians were 17-42 from the field for 40 percent. Cherokee netted 7-12 free throws, and Spirit Lake was 17-30 thanks to 18 more trips to the foul line.
Ege paced the winners in steals with five, and assists with five, while Pitts had four and three, and Schuck and Jakob Hummel three each.
"I think the guys realized after Tuesday's game (a narrow loss at #2 Hull Western Christian) that they need to keep bringing it with pace," said Cherokee coach Bob Lee. "We were up four points and then got after it on our press and jumped up by 12 in just 30 seconds in the second quarter. That was big and showed what we are capable of.
"Everyone contributed something tonight. We had 12 players score. It was fun to see the crowd get into it. We're still on our way up. We haven't peaked yet.
"Our press is a real testimony to our effort and our passing was great. We've had some growing pains with a new coach and new system, but the guys are coming together and it's fun to see how far they can take it. When they put their minds to it, we can play with anybody."
The 11-5 Braves (7-4 in Lakes Conference) host Estherville-LC Tuesday night, and journey to Le Mars Friday night.