CENTRE – Cherokee County High School senior post player Nas Diamond has been wanting to contribute more on the offensive end when the Warriors take the basketball court.
On Friday night against Class 5A Alexandria, Warrior coach Caleb Hays told Diamond to just let loose and quit worrying so much about things from a statistical standpoint.
Diamond followed his coach’s advice and delivered what Hays called one of the best games he’s seen him play. Through patience and letting the game come to him, Diamond scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Warriors to a 68-56 victory.
“I really wanted him to go at them, and I wanted us to feed him the ball. I thought that was a good matchup for him,” Hays said. “He’s been wanting to get that off his shoulders, and he really played unbelievable. He had fun. He played loose. He finished well. He shot free throws well. He rebounded well. He played exceptional all the way around. He was definitely an x-factor.”
All the more impressive about Diamond’s shining night was he did most of his damage inside the paint against several bigger guys.
“I just came into this game knowing I had to get them in foul trouble, try to get them out of the game,” Diamond said. “They were playing through contact, but Coach Hays made us play through adversity at practice and we just stayed patient.”
But before Diamond made his presence felt, it was the Warrior shooters who made their marks.
Cherokee County (3-3) connected on four first-quarter treys to build a 20-12 advantage. The Warriors hit a fifth 3-pointer less than a minute into the second quarter courtesy of Connor Elrod before Diamond began banging on the inside.
He scored six points in the second quarter, but Alexandria managed to cut the Warrior lead to a point at 32-31 at halftime.
Diamond energized the Warriors with his breakaway dunk at the 5:03 mark of the third quarter, which put the Warriors up 40-38, but the Valley Cubs still didn’t back down. They trailed by only a basket at 46-44 at the end of the third quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Jack Amos and Elrod to open the fourth pushed the Warrior lead to 52-46. A rebound and putback by Malachi Horton gave the Warriors a 54-46 advantage. The Warriors then proceeded to hit 12-of-15 free throws down the stretch to maintain their lead down the stretch.
“We knew it was tight coming into the fourth, and we knew they were going to be aggressive and kind of stretch out the floor a little bit,” Hays said. “We wanted to make sure we got the ball in our shooters’ hands and make sure we were cutting to the basket. I didn’t want them to get in a mode where they wanted to stall. I still wanted us to be aggressive, but be patient while being aggressive.
“That’s the poise we’ve been preaching. We’ve got some athletes and we’ve got some competitors, but the poise is something we’re really trying to hit on them at practice. When things get crazy and chaotic, can you handle that? Can you settle down and make the shots you need to make? I thought they did a good job of being poised and under control when the pressure was on them.”
Elrod tossed in 16 points for the Warriors, including three treys. Slade Alexander added 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Amos finished with eight points.
“Really, we’ve just been preaching make sure to box out, crash the boards and be physical,” Hays said. “Our guys love a challenge. That was the biggest thing, just making sure we were physical with them. We knew we were going to have to shoot the ball well. We knew we were going to have to hit free throws and find penetration. We didn’t want to go away from them because they were big. We wanted to make sure we attacked them at the glass and didn’t back down. I thought our guys really accepted that challenge and that was very impressive by them, just watching them go at them like that.”
Landan Williams led Alexandria (1-2) with 17 points. D’Anthony Walton added 11 points for the Valley Cubs. Javais McGhee and Collin Taylor both scored eight points. Julian Wright finished with seven points.
Cherokee County 71, Alexandria 20
CENTRE – The Cherokee County Lady Warriors don’t have much height to speak of this basketball season, but they sure have plenty of speed.
The Alexandria Lady Cubs found out speed kills on Friday night.
The Lady Warriors went on a 16-0 run to begin the game en route to a 71-20 blowout to improve to 5-0 on the season.
“If you look at our height, especially our guards, we are not big at all, so we’ve got to do something to overcome our size,” Lady Warrior coach Leah Nelson said. “They’re fun to watch because they’re so fast.”
The Lady Warriors’ speed and quickness helped give them a 31-11 advantage at halftime and a 58-17 edge after three quarters.
Karlee Perry led Cherokee County with 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Audrey Green added 15 points. Mary Hayes Johnson tossed in 10 points. Emily Allen and Ella Garmany both contributed eight points. Allen also had three steals and Garmany also had six rebounds. Audrey Haygood finished with seven points, all in the fourth quarter.
Jill Cockrell led the Lady Cubs with six points.