ESTHERVILLE - The Cherokee Braves could not hang on to solid leads engineered in the second and third quarters, including a 52-43 bulge heading into the final eight minutes, and lost a tense 68-64 Lakes Conference basketball game to a youthful Estherville-LC club here Friday night.
Jake Spindler and Eric Wilkie tallied 11 points apiece, and Dagel finished with 10, despite sitting much of the second and third frames due to foul trouble.
Matt Burrell led the Midgets with 19 points, followed by Tucker Melburn 15, and Evan Hansen 11.
The Braves sank 25-56 field goals for 45 percent, including 7-21 three-balls, and cashed in 7-13 free throws.
Smith and Dagel led Cherokee on the boards with six rebounds each, and Wilkie totaled five steals and five assists to lead those categories.
"In the fourth quarter, we gave up the middle and our bigs got into foul trouble and they made their free throws," said Cherokee coach Bob Lee. "That's a lethal combination. We were fouling because we were a step slow on defense. They'd drive the lane and our weak side defense was a step slow.
"They took the lead with about 3:00 to go and then we had to play catch-up the rest of the way. We'd get up by eight or nine points and then have a turnover and they'd make a three and get right back in it with confidence. We didn't put them away when we had the chance.
"We need to work on making fewer mistakes at crucial times. They're killing us right now."
The Braves enter the holiday break with a 2-5 record.