BRAVE WIN RANKED BATTLE 80-66
ORANGE CITY - In an early season battle between two Class 3A ranked teams, Cherokee's No. 3 Braves rode the offensive wave of JeMae Nichols in the second half and rolled to an 80-66 win over No. 7 ranked Unity Christian here last Friday.
"Anytime you play Unity, it's going to be a dog fight," said Brandon Slaughter, Cherokee head coach. "I was a little nervous as we came out and missed a lot of easy
shots early, but our kids kept playing hard and we were able to overcome the four points halftime deficit."
Unity attacked inside the paint early on the shoulders of 5-11 senior Janie Schoonhover and her 5-11 sophomore sister Gracie. "Both the Schoonhoven girls are tough to guard and Janie is one of the best inside players I've seen in a long time," noted Slaughter.
Unity utilized its sister act often and successfully in the first half, maintaining a 23-21 first quarter lead and a narrow 40-36 halftime edge.
The Braves struggled early the game, missing numerous times on close-in opportunities. "We couldn't get anything to fall early on," said Slaughter. "At halftime we made a defensive adjustment and JeMae (Nichols) came out and played perhaps her best half of high school basketball.," added the Cherokee mentor.
Nichols finished with 29 points, netting 12-18 from the field, a perfect 3-3 from the arch and 2-6 at the line. "JeMae was JeMae tonight, especially in the second half. She dominated. They couldn't stop her," said Slaughter, who was also quick to credit another senior, Grace Anderson, for her defensive performance.
"My hat goes off to Grace. She got the luxury of guarding Janie (Schoonhoven)," said Slaughter. "We told her that was her only job and I thought she played xceptionally hard the second half."
Balanced scoring was another key to Cherokee's fourth win of the young season. An always determined junior spitfire, Lexi Pingel, penetrated Unity's defense for numerous hard-earned layups and canned 3 of 5 long range bombs to finished with 21 points. Also, veteran Teagan Slaughter added 14 points and picked off four steals as did Pingel.
Also aiding the Braves was the consistent play of sophomore point guard Kenna Mongan, who chipped in nine points and dished out three assists.
Nichols' game high 29 points, seven steals, five assists and nine rebounds led Cherokee in all categories.
"Again, I can't say enough about how all our girls played," noted Slaughter. "We have things to work on. Our free throws are going to be crucial down the road, so that's got to bet better, and we'll focus on that."
The Schoonhoven sisters led a balanced Unity attack as Janie knocked in 19 and Gracie 18. Also for the Knights it was Emma Byker with 13 and Jenna Bouma 12. Game stats showed Unity with a 41-29 advantage.
The Braves will host Storm Lake in a Lakes Conference tilt here Friday in the first part of a coed doubleheader. Game time is 6:15p.m.