Walton (12-0, 5-0) got on the board first, with a shot from Nick Wells, to set the tone for the night.
While the teams were more evenly matched than the final score would indicate, the Raiders appeared to have a slight edge in every area throughout the game.
When Elijah Weems made a 3-pointer in the first quarter, Cherokee’s Jack Carroll quickly responded with a 3 of his own. In fact, it was Carroll’s second 3-pointer of the game, which gave the Warriors (13-2, 4-1) a short-lived 15-14 lead.
Walton, however, answered with shots by Weems and Jay Bowyer to go up 21-15 at the end of the first.
Cherokee was never again able to pull even with the Raiders.
A three-point play by Bowyer, and back-to-back shots by Weems, saw the Raiders’ lead grow to 31-21 midway through the second. By the half, Cherokee trailed 34-27.
As the defenses stepped up in the second half, play became a bit sloppier. Walton attempted for force turnovers in transition and was often successful. Despite solid plays by Jovan Morris and Jeremiah Gill, the Warriors weren’t quite able to catch Walton.
After a jumper by Gill and a turnover by the Raiders, Morris scored on an inbound play and made the free throw that followed, which cut Walton’s lead to two, 40-38.
The play seemed only to spark the Raiders.
Freshman Juanye Colon netted a 3-pointer for Walton. Bowyer then made a 3 of his own before Colon took an assist from Wells in for a layup and a 48-38 lead.
The teams traded free throws to end the period, but Walton maintained its 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
A pair of Morris free throws and another 3 by Carroll cut Walton’s lead to seven — 52-45 — but Cherokee could get no closer.
The Raiders made free throws down the stretch as Cherokee began to foul in order to get possession of the ball. Bowyer capped the scoring when he made a pair of free throws were 5 seconds on the clock.
Weems led all scorers with 19 points, and he also added 12 rebounds. Bowyer was close behind with 17 points, including a 5-for-5 effort at the free-throw line. Wells finished with 13.
Chad Clay had six steals as Walton forced 27 turnovers on the night.
Morris led Cherokee with 16 points and was 6-for-6 on free throws. Carroll finished with 13 points and Jeremiah Gill had 11.
Gary Dubiel, who played a few minutes off the bench, scored four points for the Warriors in the final minute of the game.
Walton 49, Cherokee 37: Erika Mast made three 3-pointers and finished the game with 16 points to lead the Lady Raiders to a Region 5AAAAAA victory.
Hannah Patterson scored 14 points and Katie Dozier finished with seven — all of which she scored during the second quarter — as Walton (4-8, 2-3) rallied from an early deficit.
Cherokee led 8-6 after a sloppy first quarter. Walton battled back in the second quarter and led 21-18 at the half and inched away from there.
Loren Ware led Cherokee (1-14, 1-4) with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Bailee Gilbreath added seven points.