Their winning streak now at 20 games, the Lady Warriors (26-1) will face Woodstock in tonight’s championship game.
It will be Cherokee’s first region title game since 2008, when it beat Osborne for the 5AAAA championship — the last of three consecutive region titles.
Etowah (12-15), which will play Wheeler in the consolation game, scored the first points of the game when Scottlyn James laid the ball in, but that was the only lead the Lady Eagles would have.
Etowah’s Jenni Karpowich hit a 3-pointer with 5:30 left in the first quarter, to tie the game at 7-all before Cherokee went on a tear. Christie Mixon made a 3-pointer, while Jeana Brannen made two, as the Lady Warriors pushed their lead to 20-14 be the end of the first quarter.
Cherokee was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the quarter.
Sydney Pefanis made a pair of free throws as the Lady Warriors opened the second quarter before Morgan Darby hit a 3-pointer to give her team a 25-15 lead with 6:10 left in the first half.
Etowah was unable to cut the deficit to fewer than 10 for the remainder of the game. Cherokee led 34-23 at the half.
After the break, it was more of the same. A basket by Sarah Byers and another 3-pointer by Darby put Cherokee up 43-27 with 4:43 remaining in the third.
The Lady Eagles kept pace for the remainder of the period, going almost point-for-point.
Etowah managed just two field goals in the fourth quarter. With Cherokee stalling the clock, the Lady Eagles began to foul, sending the Lady Warriors to the line for 13 shots, of which Cherokee came away with eight points. Byers was 4-for-4 from the line.
Kiana Howell struggled from the foul line. She was just 1-for-5 in the quarter and 5-for-13 in the game, but she did finish with a team-high 19 points.
Despite the spread in scoring, the game was hard-fought by both teams.
“It’s a county rivalry,” Cherokee coach Matt Cates said. “That’s the way they go. It’s always a battle when we play each other. We didn’t expect it to be anything different. It was a good, hard-fought game, and we were fortunate enough to come out on top.”
Brennan finished the game with 12 points, while Byers had 11. Darby rounded out the Lady Warriors in double figures with 10 points.
Etowah was led by Taylor Kimber and Shakyna Payne, who each scored nine points. Tori Janos finished with eight points — seven of which came in the third quarter.
Etowah coach Bob Westbrook said his team just didn’t do enough.
“You know, when you are a 4 (seed), and they are a 1, you have to do a lot more things right than you do wrong,” he said. “We didn’t do that. We still made a lot of mistakes and they were costly mistakes.”
The loss cost Etowah a home game in the first round of the state playoffs.
“You want to win as many games as you can,” Westbrook said. “(Today) is a real important game. Pretty simply, we knew, if we lost (Friday), we were on the road, and if we won, we were at home. So, that was pretty much decided by the game. And now (today) is just important because you want to win every game you play and we will play it as such.”
Cates said his team, which has not lost to a region opponent all season, will put its best foot forward against Woodstock tonight to get the best playoff seed that it can. Cherokee swept its two regular-season games with the Lady Wolverines, but only by a combined seven points.
“We’ll be back at it,” Cates said.