But with the game on the line, it was the host Lady Warriors who made the plays they needed to secure a 66-65 victory, ending Sprayberry’s seven-game winning streak.
Cherokee (12-6) put itself in position to win by scoring eight unanswered points in the final 2 minutes after it trailed by six. After Kiana Howell capped the run with a layup to give the Lady Warriors a 65-63 with 1:26 left, the game then became a little unpredictable.
Cherokee extended the lead to three when Howell made one of two free throws. Then, the Lady Warriors got a defensive stop when the game-tying 3-point attempt by Sprayberry’s Shadae Pete was off target, and Bree Wells got the rebound for Cherokee.
Sprayberry (11-6) ended up getting another stop at the other end, but Neena Carter was called for a charge while going for a layup, giving the ball back to Cherokee.
Seconds later, the Lady Warriors were called for traveling, giving Sprayberry another possession with 10 seconds left.
Pete converted a quick layup to close the gap to one, but the Lady Yellow Jackets weren’t quick enough to foul before the final buzzer sounded.
“I think it was one of those games where we should have come up with the win, had the ball bounced our way,” Sprayberry coach Mark Giles said. “When the margin is so slim, one ball off their foot could have swung it our way, but it happened to go the other way.”
With the score knotted at 55-all with roughly 3 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Sprayberry jumped in front by six on two Shadae Pete free throws, a Neena Carter layup and a second-chance shot by Marchelle Lunsford.
But Howell and forward Aunisha Williams played big roles in bailing Cherokee out of a late six-point deficit during the final 2 minutes of the game.
Howell finished her own miss to get the run started. Williams then cut the Sprayberry lead to two with a layup and tied the game with a putback before Howell provided the game-winning layup and free throw.
Williams was the spark for Cherokee, leading the Lady Warriors with 26 points. But credit to Sprayberry defense —after Williams scored 14 first-half points, she was held to two free throws in the third quarter.
“They put two (defenders) on me in the third quarter, and I had to adjust to that,” Williams said. “I just had to think out there, knowing that it was our game.”
With Williams quiet in the third quarter, Carter came to life in the Sprayberry post during the third quarter after missing her first seven shot attempts in the first half. She went on to lead the Lady Yellow Jackets with 22 points.
Most of Carter’s second-half points came in the third quarter. She converted four layups, with three coming off steals in the first 4 minutes of the frame, to help Sprayberry build a 40-33 lead after Cherokee led by three at the break.
Cherokee then began hitting its shots, and an open 3-pointer from the right corner by Bree Wells cut the Sprayberry lead to 40-38. The teams traded buckets until the third quarter expired before Cherokee regained its first play of the fourth quarter, when Williams hit her first layup of the second half.
Lunsford and Shyra Oliver each had 13 points for Sprayberry, with Lunsford pulling down 11 rebounds.
For Cherokee, Williams went on to complete a double-double with 12 rebounds. Wells added 18 points behind four 3-pointers, and Howell had eight points and seven rebounds.