Jackie Riggins, recently added from Cherokee’s junior varsity team, entered the game after Morgan Fortson fouled out and two more Lady Warriors were in trouble.
Riggins drew a foul and was sent to the free-throw line with 5 seconds on the clock, with Cherokee (1-23, 1-11 Region 5AAAAAA) trailing by two. Riggins’ first shot swished through the net, but the Cherokee bench continued to hold back its biggest cheer until the second shot, which likewise found only the bottom of the net.
Cherokee pressured Wheeler (9-9, 5-5), and time expired without another shot by the Lady Wildcats.
The Lady Warriors, however, couldn’t draw any momentum from the sequence at the end of regulation. In overtime, Wheeler quickly went up 67-61 with a pair of 3-pointers by Shanee Bailey. Cherokee responded with a 3-pointer of its own by Ali Postell before using its final timeout with 2:43 left in the game.
Wheeler added another 3-pointer by Shaquashia Keeling, along with a free throw by Tierra Steede, for a 71-64 lead — its biggest edge of the game.
Two more Cherokee players — Postell and Bethany Huch — were called for their fifth fouls as the Lady Wildcats continued to pull away.
While Wheeler won by more than 10 points, Cherokee controlled the first half of the game.
The Lady Warriors put up 23 points in the first quarter as Loren Ware’s nine points led one of Cherokee’s best offensive showings of the season.
And if the Lady Warriors’ offense was showcased in the first quarter, it was the defense’s turn in the second. Cherokee held Wheeler to just three points and took a 27-15 lead into the second half.
After the break, it seems as if the teams had traded jerseys. Wheeler poured in 25 points in the third quarter and trailed by just eight points entering the final 8 minutes of play.
Wheeler continued to roll in the fourth, leading by as many as five points. Cherokee cut that lead with shots by Haven Wilson and Abbey Weaver, setting up the free throws by Riggins.
Ware led Cherokee with 19 points, while Postell scored 13 points and Wilson finished with 12.
Bailey scored 19 points for Wheeler and Lyric Hancock chipped in 13 points. Steed finished with 18 points and Fernanda Silva rounded out the Lady Wildcats in double figures with 10.
Cherokee will be back in action today when it hosts Walton in another region game. Wheeler travels to Etowah for a game tonight.