“For the game, we shot 25-percent,” he said. “We shot 17-percent in the first half. Unless you’re a really strong offensive-rebounding team, which we’re not, if you shoot that bad, you’re going to get beat. I thought our defense played pretty well. They kept us in the game, especially early, but offensively, we’re just struggling.”
The loss dropped the Warriors to 1-5 on the season, while Cedar Bluff improved to 2-0.
As Barnes said, defense set the pace of the game. Both teams were scoreless until the 3:24 mark of the first quarter, when the Tigers’ DeAngelo Hardy was fouled on a drive to the basket. Hardy’s layup found it’s way through the basket, and he connected on the ensuing free throw for a 3-0 Tiger lead.
Cedar Bluff would go on to hold a 10-7 advantage at the end of the quarter.
“It was a defensive struggle there for a while,” Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said. “It looked for a while it was going to be one of those 30-28 games. Coach Barnes does a tremendous job coaching defense. It’s not easy to score on them.
“We tried to adjust some things. Coach (Johnny) Amison changed offenses, and it wasn’t long before we got a basket here and there, but the next thing you know, they adjusted too. They do an outstanding job on defense. We just happened to hit more shots than they did. It could have very easily been flipped the other way.”
Cedar Bluff stretched its lead to 24-17 at halftime and 41-26 after three quarters, but the Warriors made a rally in the fourth quarter.
Cherokee County cut its deficit down to five at 43-38 with 4:09 remaining on a pair of free throws by Wade Griffith. Griffith finished with seven points and four rebounds.
After Griffith’s free throws, Cedar Bluff managed to go on a 7-2 run for the final.
“I think we started looking at the scoreboard and not looking at what we were doing,” Carpenter said. “We committed several turnovers, and they were playing good defense. They created some of the stuff we did, but we created some of it on our own.
“They started taking advantage of our defense. They started driving the lane on us and made some key passes underneath, some good shots. They knocked down some threes. It’s a credit to them and to Coach Barnes. They never quit. I told our guys at halftime they weren’t going to go away. They were going to fight back in this ball game, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Terrence Scales led Cedar Bluff with 21 points, nine boards and a pair of steals. Hardy contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Levi Mintz finished with five points and four steals.
JoJo Diamond topped Cherokee County’s scorers with 12 points. Darius Covington added 10 points. Tony Pruitt posted eight points, 14 boards and four steals.
“We made a run there late, but we were 4 out of 14 from the free-throw line,” Barnes said. “That’s 10 points right there. It comes down to free-throw shooting and field goal shooting.”