As I’ve written about in a previous post here on weisradio.com, this season for us here at WEIS has seen the best of the teams here in Cherokee County square off against some of the best teams this state has to offer, and even a couple of outsiders such as in the County Invitational with viewings of Chattooga. But as this season gets another step closer to ending off, let’s now assess what has happened here.
Area Tournaments first, big moments for the 5 boys and 5 girls teams representing our county.
Gaylesville were the first to bid adieu to the basketball season following losses in the 1A Area 14 tournament, with the girls falling 37-31 to Westbrook and the boys 54-52 to Valley Head.
That was quickly followed by the Warriors of Cherokee County High School seeing both their County Champion teams fall victim to the powers inside 4A Area 12, as the Lady Warriors lost 61-29 to Jacksonville, and the boys at CCHS came close but ultimately fell 51-50 to the Eagles of Hokes Bluff.
Sand Rock‘s Lady Wildcats pushed on to the Championship game of 2A Area 12 thanks to a 67-26 win over Westbrook and in that Championship they ultimately settled with a Runner-Up crown as they fell to Collinsville 56-43, but their male counterparts saw a season end as they fell in a close 10 point loss to Westbrook by a score of 53-43.
Cedar Bluff brought both teams to Area title games in 1A Area 14, the boys securing a 61-39 win over Woodville before earning a Runner-Up in the finale as Skyline took the 1A Area 14 crown by a 74-69 score, and the Lady Tigers making history after a 39-29 win over Valley Head as they went on to shock a highly ranked Lady Vikings team of Skyline and securing their first area title in school history with a 65-52 victory.
And of course, Spring Garden handled their business on the court as per usual as they took both teams to the 1A Area 10 Championship games, the defending 1A Champion Lady Panthers following a 86-38 win over Sacred Heart with a 74-20 victory over JCA to secure their 5th straight Area Championship, while the boys managed a W over Faith Christian 73-46 before falling to the defending back-to-back boys 1A Champion Sacred Heart team by a score of 70-38.
Tough to lose half the field, but Cherokee County still sported a strong Sand Rock girls team and history-minded Cedar Bluff and Spring Garden boys and girls squads into Sub-Region play accompanied by a pair of Area titles from the defending 1A Champion Lady Panthers and shocking underdog Lady Tigers. The following round wasn’t afraid of more knockouts though, and our field was quickly cut down following a Monday night Sand Rock loss at Fyffe by a final of 57-41, and on Tuesday it was tough to see the boys field cut down to 0 as Cedar Bluff hit a wall at Decatur Heritage with a 55-43 loss and Spring Garden falling victim to Coosa Christian in a close 58-51 defeat.
That ultimately leaves two programs who stood tall on Monday night, standing up to their own Sub-Region tests while fending off an Athens Bible team 63-37 in the case of Cedar Bluff, and Spring Garden taking another step towards defending their blue trophy with a 75-35 win over Appalachian. And the funny part of this all is…by the end of Friday, there will be one county team left standing.
On Friday, February 17th at 3:00 PM, inside of the home of the Jacksonville State Gamecocks that is Pete Mathews Coliseum, a stage will be set for the two girls powers of Cherokee County to battle it out for not only ultimate bragging rights on a big stage, but also to determine who is only 1 step away from Birmingham.
In one corner, the clear underdog but a role I think these ladies will take with every bit of stride, the Cedar Bluff Lady Tigers. Coach Joe Carpenter’s team boasts a 13-18 record on the season, but with that record comes some strong showings throughout and a girls team who despite their amount of young talent have matured when it matters the most and with that maturity came a first ever Area Championship and some quality wins that will factor greatly into the momentum game that basketball lives on. Whether it be Alexis Smith getting right under the basket and putting together great second chance opportunities or driving in herself off of steals, the outside threats of Julianne Wilson, Kyla O’Neal, and Kallie Kilgro, and every girl in between, this young Cedar Bluff team wants another shot on the big stage and they most surely intend on going through any beast they can and quiting the doubters.
But my what a beast to face on Friday evening, because on that court at JSU they must battle the biggest dog on the block and the girls with the biggest targets on their backs. They are the defending Class 1A AHSAA State Champions, they are the 1A Area 10 Champions, they are a team being welcomed to the Northeast Regionals for the 15th time in the last 16 years. They are the 22-7 Spring Garden Lady Panthers coached by Ricky Austin, and the man referred to by many as Coach Rat is no stranger to these grounds, or at the very least he shouldn’t be. Performances every night from another of the big time Rogers sisters, Tiyonna, has played a difference for Spring Garden throughout the season, as has an efficient outside threat like Savannah Dempsey, also strong core players with AJ Broome, Kerstin Bryant, and Payton McGinnis, and all that wrapped together in a nice blanket of bench talent gives you a Lady Panthers team capable of history and capable of defending their blue trophy with everything they have. As one of the many fan shirts Spring Garden has says, it is “Garden vs All Y’all” and they accept that responsibility greatly.
Waiting for the winner of that CB/SG clash in the Northeast Regional finals on February 22nd at 12:30 PM will either be a vengeful Skyline Lady Vikings team (25-4), or an equally booming Coosa Christian Lady Conquerors team (18-4). Whether it is the mighty red and white or powerful maroon and gold that moves on after Friday, it will be nice for Cherokee County to send yet another team to the BJCC in Birmingham for the State Tournament and I hopefully speak for most in our listening area when I say I will be cheering on either of these girls programs as they look to solidify themselves hopefully into the history books with a blue trophy bearing our great state on it and two simple words: State Champions.
Be sure to find your way to Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum on Friday evening at 3:00 PM to watch a clash of Tigers and Panthers, but if you can’t make it to the game don’t forget that you will be able to catch the action from JSU on WEIS 990 AM and 100.5 FM. And hopefully, I will see you guys one last time in Birmingham.