Cedartown nearly pulled off one of their biggest upsets in school history.
The Bulldogs (4-2) pushed Cherokee (10-1) to the limit in the first round of the Rockmart Christmas Tournament. The Warriors were previously ranked as the no. 9 team in the state in Class 7A.
Cedartown may have been a heavy underdog headed into the opening round clash, but they played sound basketball early on. The Bulldogs were flying around the court and took a 17-9 lead into the second period. Cherokee took their first true lead late in the first half, but Cedartown battled back to take a 34-29 advantage into the locker rooms.
The Warriors, led by Coach Robert Kvam, came out and played as perfect as one could ask after halftime. Thanks to some third period heroics by Tahland Owens, Cherokee reclaimed the lead. Cedartown trailed 51-46 going into the final interval of regulation.
The fourth period of this game deserves its own movie. As great as Cherokee played over the final eight minutes of regulation, Cedartown played even better. Big shots by MJ Holiday, Elijah Diamond, and Jeremiah Johnson helped tie it up and send the game into overtime.
In the first overtime period, the defenses came ready to play. Cherokee scored two points off a basket by Bennett Ulm, whereas Cedartown got on the board thanks to two made free throws by Jayden Johnson. With another 69-69 tie, the game entered a second overtime.
Cherokee was able to pull away in the second free period. The Warriors’ depth and conditioning allowed for them to outscore Cedartown 7-1 in the period to win 76-70.
Though Cherokee escaped with a victory, fans on both sides left the arena knowing that two of the best teams in north Georgia- regardless of classification- had just played a classic.
Junior forward Jayden Johnson led Cedartown in scoring with 22 points. MJ Holiday added 15 points while Elijah Diamond tallied 14. DJ Frazier scored 12, Jeremiah Johnson finished with 5, and Jadon Powell recorded 2 on free throws.
As for the ninth ranked Cherokee Warriors, Tahland Owens scored 32 points and Elijah Tucker added 24 in the win. Nobody else scored over 11 points in the game for Cherokee.
Now in the loser’s bracket of the Rockmart Christmas Tournament, Cedartown will play Bremen (1-9) in the second round. The Blue Devils lost to East Paulding 79-41 yesterday.
That game will start at 5:30 p.m., and it will be played at the Rockmart Recreational Gym. For those unable to make it to the games, they can tune into the broadcast on WGAA Radio (106.1 FM, AM 1340, and WGAARadio.com).