VALEâ€”Cherryville`s Antonio Griggs took a seat on the bench early after picking up two fouls in the first 40 seconds of Friday night`s game against West Lincoln.
But thankfully for the Ironmen, the 6-1 junior guard was on the floor when it mattered the most. Griggs scored 15 of his team-high 21 points in the second half as Cherryville rallied from an eight-point deficit to ease past the Rebels 62-60 and win the season series 2-0.
Cherryville (5-2) was on the ropes and ready to go down when Griggs went to work in the third quarter.
With Ryan Huffman hitting three straight shots to open the second half, the Rebels (2-5) extended a four-point halftime lead to eight at 43-35.
However, just when West seemed on the verge of pulling away, Griggs stole a pass and zoomed the length of the court for a layup, cutting the deficit to six at 46-40.
The fourth quarter opened with Griggs hitting a rainbow 3-pointer that he appeared to launch from downtown Cat Square. He followed with another long range bomb about 30 seconds later, and suddenly the score was knotted 46.
West Lincoln led for the last time at 50-48 on two Huffman free throws, but 6-foot-6 senior Brandon Thomas put the Ironmen ahead for good at 51-50 with a three-point play at the 4:02 mark.
Freshman Kalem Johnson followed with the best play of the night–a steal followed by a a one-handed thunder dunk that made the score 53-50.
West Lincoln got as close as 59-57 on Josh Fisher`s putback with 46 seconds left, but Cherryville answered on its next possession. In a textbook display of high-low passing, Thomas received a pass at the foul line and dumped off inside to Justin Johnson for an easy layup to extend the lead to four.
West Lincoln`s hopes faded the next time down the floor when Fisher missed a shot under the basket, and the Rebels were forced to foul.
“I just told myself that we were not going to lose,” said Griggs, a key sub on last year`s 26-2 Cherryville team. “I knew I was in foul trouble, but I had to step it up on offense and defense.”
Justin Johnson, one of three ninth-graders on the Cherryville roster, added 13 points, while Thomas and Kalem Johnson scored 10 each.
West Lincoln`s Huffman led all scorers with 23 points, nine coming from behind the 3-point arc. Sophomore guard Taylor Woodie also reached double figures with 10.
The game was played at a helter-skelter pace, and neither team even paid lip service to running their offensive sets.
“It was an accumulation of turnovers,” West Lincoln coach Chad Wright said of the game`s ragged, up and down the floor style. “We just made more turnovers than they did. We like to get after people, and Cherryville does too, so it was exciting to watch.”
The game was the last tuneup for both teams prior to the start of conference play. West Lincoln opens its Midwest 2A schedule Tuesday at Chase. Cherryville goes to Hendersonville next Friday for a Southern Foothills 1A opener.
Cherryville 16 11 13 22 -62
West Lincoln 9 22 15 14 -60
IRONMEN: Kalem Johnson 10, Antonio Griggs 21, Lovelace 2, Kendricks 2, Justin Johnson 13, Brandon Thomas 10, Alexander 4.
REBELS: Ben Poole 4, Heath Cole 4, Taylor Woodie 10, Daniel Paysour 1, Josh Fisher 7, Gene Arp 8, Ryan Huffman 23, Ben Hickman 3.
Angie Walls scored 16 points and Ebone Johnson added 14 as Cherryville ran its unbeaten mark to 7-0. Valerie Fite and Tamika Werts led West Lincoln with eight points each.
Cherryville 13 13 16 8 -50
West Lincoln 8 2 8 14 -32
IRONMEN: Bridges 4, Angie Walls 16, Wooster 8, Farnsworth 7, Ebone Johnson 14, Dodd 1.
REBELS: Elmore 2, Taylor 2, Norman 2, Grigg 6, Fite 8, Werts 8, Dibari 2, Thornburg 2.by Mike Powell