RUTLEDGE—Cherokee stunned host Grainger County’s girls by grabbing a 22-11 lead after the first quarter before the Lady Grizzlies turned up the defense and came back for a 55-44 victory in the Pizza Plus Thanksgiving Classic Friday morning.
The Lady Chiefs, who are now 1-5 for the season, poured in eight baskets with half of them three-pointers in their big first quarter.
However, when the home team turned up the pressure on defense, Cherokee managed only two shots in the second quarter when the Lady Grizzlies came back for a 29-26 lead.
The Lady Chiefs stayed within striking distance as they trailed by just six with five minutes left in the game, but Tori Rutherford had a pair of triples to spark a 10-2 run that broke it open for Grainger.
Rutherford finished with 15 as the Lady Grizzlies won for the fourth time in five games. Lauren Longmire chipped in 13 while Matty Tanner had eight and Abby Hodge seven.
Destiny Jarnigan scored 12, all on three pointers, to lead Cherokee. Lydia Alvis contributed 11.
Grainger County coach Rusty Bishop said, “At the start, it really showed that we hadn’t been in the gym in a couple of days. That’s what happens I guess when you’ve had two days off, are full of food and haven’t done anything but kind of laid around all day.
“We weren’t great at anything the first quarter,” he said. “We didn’t get many shots to fall and gave up too many second-chance points ourselves. I told the team in the huddle after the quarter that we were just kind of going through the motions.
“But we turned it up on defense and played a lot better in the second,” he said. “Give credit to Cherokee because they shot it well and we were in a dogfight for four quarters.”
Bishop closed, “Then when our pressure started giving them some problems, we couldn’t capitalize as much as we needed to do offensively.
“But we made a few and finally pulled away a little bit in the middle of the fourth quarter.”
Cherokee shot 51.8 percent by making 14 of 57 from the field. They made 6 of 10 attempts from long range.
The Lady Grizzlies were 22 of 60 from the floor for 36.7 including 9 of 26 behind the arc.
Jarnigan and Macy McDavid had six rebounds each to lead Cherokee to a 31-29 edge. Alia Maloney grabbed five for Grainger County.
After the Lady Grizzlies rolled out to a 6-2 lead, Alvis hit a three and Gema Brooks scored underneath the basket for Cherokee. Longmire buried a three but the Lady Chiefs scored 10 straight and closed the quarter on a 15-2 run.
Jarnigan had three treys and Alvis made two baskets in the spurt.
Sam Tilson scored the only two buckets for Cherokee in the second with the last one coming with 5:35 left in the half and giving the Lady Chiefs a 26-18 lead.
But, Tanner Audrey Stratton and Sydnie Hayes all hit three before the half was over and Hodge added a basket to push the Lady Grizzlies in front at the half
The scoring drought continued for Cherokee in the third quarter when Grainger scored the first seven points. McDavid finally scored for the Lady Chiefs for their first points in 13:21. Alvis came right back with two more free throws and Kodi Henson knocked in a three to get them within 38-33 after three quarters.
Grainger had a 7-6 edge in the first three minutes of the fourth period before the run that broke the game open.