CENTRE - Since a 0-3 start to the season, Cherokee County coach Neal Wester has seen a lot of improvement with the Warrior basketball team. Just how much they've improved will get put to a strong test beginning next Friday.

The Warriors (7-6) were tabbed the top seed Wednesday evening in the Cherokee County Boys Basketball Tournament. They'll open tournament play next Friday at 8:30 p.m. against the winner of Thursday's 7:30 p.m. game between No. 4 Cedar Bluff (5-13) and No. 5 Gaylesville (1-11).

Second-seeded Sand Rock (8-9) battles No. 3 Spring Garden (5-10) in the other tournament semifinal next Friday at 5:30 p.m.

All games will be played at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena. Admission is $5. Spring Garden is the tournament host.

"The county tournament is special," Wester said. "Your pride comes in. Everybody wants to be the best in the county. It is important to us, to our players and our program. We're excited about it and look forward to playing. It's in a great venue at the arena, and that makes it even better. It's kind of a reward. Personally, I'm looking forward to that, me being the back here. Our kids are looking forward to it. They're excited about it, and I'm excited about it."

The boys' championship game is set for Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Like Wester, Sand Rock Lady Wildcat coach Lisa Bates is looking forward to the challenge. The Lady Wildcats (17-1) were selected the top seed in the girls' tournament. They'll open tournament play next Friday at 7 p.m. against the winner of No. 4 Cherokee County (6-8) and No. 5 Gaylesville (5-7). That game is slated for next Thursday at 6 p.m.

Second-seeded Spring Garden (14-2) and No. 3 Cedar Bluff (8-10) play in the other girls' tournament semifinal next Friday at 4 p.m.

"I think it's going to be a good county tournament. I'm looking forward to it," Bates said. "I think it's going to be full of adrenaline and energy and some good basketball.

"Our girls have kind of felt pressure all year, and that's good, because we've tried to create that atmosphere so they don't panic at the end of the season. I think they'll be excited about the No. 1 seed. I feel like they're going to expect to win. We're going to play hard, but expect for it to be tough. We're ready for the challenge."

The girls' championship game is scheduled for Jan. 18 at 6 p.m.

Junior Varsity Tournament

Sand Rock's junior varsity boys (12-0) were selected the top seed in the JV county tournament. Sand Rock will play in the championship game on Jan. 18 at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of next Thursday's 5 p.m. game between No. 2 Cherokee County (7-1) and No. 3 Gaylesville (0-0).

Sand Rock's junior varsity girls (12-0) will battle Cherokee County (2-2) in the girls' title game Jan. 18 at 3 p.m.