CENTRE – Cherokee County High School girls basketball coach Leah Nelson was curious to find out how the Lady Warriors would respond from a tough two-point loss at White Plains on Friday night, their first of the season.
She didn’t have a long wait to find out the answer. The Lady Warriors returned home on Saturday to host Class 6A Fort Payne.
Add to that several of Nelson’s players took the ACT on Saturday morning, it turns out the Lady Warriors have a lot of fight in them.
Behind senior shooting guard Karlee Perry’s five 3-pointers and 17 total points, and sophomore forward Ella Garmany’s 14 points and 17 rebounds, the Lady Warriors got back in the win column with a convincing 67-50 victory. It was Nelson’s first win as head coach of the Lady Warriors against Fort Payne.
“I’m proud of the way they kept fighting,” Nelson said. “One of the things we talked about (after the White Plains loss) was how we’re going to respond when things don’t go our way. When we don’t play well, when we don’t shoot the ball well, how are we going to come back? Are we going to learn from it? Are we going to grow from it? I feel like this team is so competitive and passionate about playing that I really didn’t worry about if they were going to come back strong. It’s tough to play two games back-to-back, especially when it’s an emotional game and things don’t go your way. I’m proud of their intensity.”
Another thing Nelson is proud of following Saturday’s win is Garmany’s performance.
“One of the things she’s got to do is be more aggressive taking the ball to the basket, and she did that tonight several times,” Nelson said. “Getting those rebounds is huge, and that’s something we’ve struggled with, with our size. That was one of the things that got us last night (at White Plains), the rebounds. She came up big tonight.”
Garmany recognizes her importance inside the paint.
“It’s really important that we rebound because we’re such a small team,” Garmany said. “Coach Nelson always pushes us to be aggressive and go for the ball, and that’s what I do. I always just jump to the ball, box out and try my best.
“It’s always intimidating when there’s bigger people that you have to guard and have to out-rebound. It makes me feel good that I can play to that level with other people who are physically more advanced than I am.”
Garmany scored six of her points and grabbed seven boards in the opening quarter, an 18-13 Lady Warrior lead. Cherokee County carried the momentum they established early into the second quarter by building a 39-25 advantage. The Lady Warriors maintained their play in the third quarter by taking a 53-37 edge.
Audrey Green added 11 points for Cherokee County. Mary Hayes Johnson connected on a pair of treys and had nine points. Emily Allen added eight points and six boards for the Lady Warriors.
Graidin Haas had 21 points to lead the Lady Wildcats. Sydney Hickman sank a pair of treys and had eight points. Logan Neil finished with seven points.
Fort Payne 66, Cherokee County 58
CENTRE – Fort Payne’s Lane White netted a game-high 36 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Fort Payne Wildcats to a 66-58 basketball victory over the Cherokee County Warriors on Saturday.
The Wildcats jumped out on a 10-0 run and held a 20-10 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Cherokee County cut its deficit to 37-32 at halftime and briefly tied the game at 47 with under a minute left in the third quarter on a Connor Elrod 3-pointer. Eli Kirby put the Wildcats back out in front at 49-47 with a basket with 10 seconds left in the quarter.
Elrod tied the game again at 49 with a basket to open the fourth quarter, then Slade Alexander gave the Warriors their first lead of the game with a bucket at the 6:45 mark of the fourth.
“They jumped on us early, and I knew we had to cut it in spurts,” Cherokee County coach Caleb Hays said. “I knew we had to stay patient and not try to get it all back at once. The guys started attacking them, started finding some things. Once the shots start falling and you can get to the free-throw line, it gets a little easier.
“I thought the second quarter we really attacked them and really got the penetration we wanted. We got to the line a good bit, and that made a big difference.”
But then White carried the Wildcats down the stretch.
His steal and dunk with 3:15 to go helped energize Fort Payne in the clutch, giving the Wildcats a 58-53 advantage. White was also fouled on the play, but missed the ensuing free throw.
White scored six of the Wildcats’ eight points in the final two minutes to close out the game.
“Number 22 (White) just took over the game,” Hays said. “We did everything we could to try and stop him, but we couldn’t do anything with him. Our guys played hard and played gritty, but he’s a special player. When he got going, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do to cool him off. We tried some different things, but he just started making shots.”
Elrod led the Warriors with 15 points. Alexander added 11 points. Jack Amos and Damien Ramsey scored nine and eight points respectively. Nas Diamond and Malachi Horton both finished with six points.
Malik Turner tossed in nine points for the Wildcats. Bryson Richey connected on two treys and finished with eight points.
Cherokee County travels to Ashville on Thursday.