Pruitt posted 18 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists to lead the Warriors to a 62-60 overtime victory against Spring Garden in the Cherokee Invitational Boys Basketball Tournament semifinals Friday at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena.
The win secured a spot for the Warriors (3-11) in Saturday’s tournament championship game. Cherokee County will face Class 1A, No. 3 Collinsville (9-1) for the tournament title at 7 p.m.
“It’ll be an early Christmas present if we can win a championship,” Pruitt said. “We know we’ve had some struggles at the first part of the season, but coach (Travis Barnes) has just told us to stay in there and come together as a team. It’s just gotten into our minds to keep working hard.”
The Warriors had to work hard against Spring Garden (8-4) on Friday. No matter how much Cherokee County stretched its lead, the Panthers would never go away. The two teams were tied at 10 at the end of the first quarter, but the Warriors pushed ahead at halftime 27-20 thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by JoJo Diamond.
Spring Garden battled its way back and briefly took the lead in the third quarter, only to see another buzzer-beating trey (this one by Darius Covington) tie the game at 38 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Warriors built as much as a six-point cushion in the fourth with 1:45 remaining in regulation before Spring Garden roared back to force overtime.
Will Westbrook drove inside the paint and connected on a layup with 24.2 seconds left to tie the game at 50, forcing the extra session.
In overtime, the Warriors once again built a six-point advantage at 60-54 with 25.5 seconds remaining, but a pair of Will Ivey 3-pointers helped cut the Panthers’ deficit down to 62-60 with four ticks let on the clock.
Following a Panther foul, the Warriors’ Darius Covington was sent to the line for two shots with one second to go. He missed the first but sank the second to make it 63-60.
A desperation 3-pointer by the Panthers’ Josh Hale was no good, and the Warriors escaped with the win.
Ivey and Jay Prater led Spring Garden with 16 points apiece. Prater connected on five of his nine shots from the 3-point arc. Westbrook came away with 15 points and three rebounds. Hale was 7-of-10 from the floor to finish with 13 points. He also had six rebounds and three assists.
“I’m proud of them,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “Offensively, Jay did a good job of letting us believe we could get back in it, then we had some guys make some big plays. Will Westbrook, Josh Hale, Will Ivey, they all come in and made some big plays, but it just always seems like we’ve got one missing link. You’ve got to give Centre credit, because they’re the ones who made the plays and played more consistently.”
Covington contributed 14 points for the Warriors. Diamond delivered three treys and finished with 13 points. Josh Higgins also connected on three treys (two in the fourth quarter) to tally nine points.
“I think the past two games, we’ve grown up and grown together as a team,” Barnes said. “Two games is a winning streak to us. Hopefully we’re peaking right here before Christmas. We’re in the championship game, so either way we’re going to end up on a good note going into Christmas break.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Early in the first quarter, Spring Garden senior forward Jake Grogan awkwardly landed on the court and did not return to action. Austin said Grogan has a glute injury and his return to the court is uncertain.
“It’s probably more than two or three days. It could be two or three weeks,” Austin said. “We hope he’s back by the next area game, but it’s something he’s going to have to do some treatment on. He hasn’t got to go anywhere. It’s just going to be some ice and stretching. With his type muscle mass, you’ve got to let it heal. You can’t push the issue on it.”
The following is a roundup of the rest of Friday’s boys tournament action.
Collinsville 60, Glencoe 58
CENTRE – The Glencoe Yellow Jackets battled back from a 10-point third-quarter deficit and had a chance to win Friday against Collinsville, but a pair of 3-pointers by Austin Hancock in the closing seconds fell short of the mark, allowing the Panthers to escape with a 60-58 victory in the Cherokee Invitational Tournament semifinals.
Hancock led all scorers with 22 points. Micah McHenry added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (8-4).
Davey Posey posted 25 points and seven rebounds for Collinsville. Deshawn Moore came away with 14 points and seven boards. David Hernandez contributed 11 points and seven rebounds.
Collinsville led 15-13 at the end of the first quarter and built a 35-29 advantage at halftime. The Panthers led 51-41 at the end of the third quarter.
Glencoe was able to stay in the game thanks to its free-throw shooting. The Yellow Jackets made 16 of their 17 attempts from the line.
Collinsville faces Cherokee County in the tournament championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. Glencoe takes on Spring Garden in the third-place game at 4 p.m.
Cedar Bluff 56, Piedmont 47
CENTRE – DeAngelo Hardy sank five 3-pointers and finished with 26 points, leading the Cedar Bluff Tigers to a 56-47 victory over Piedmont Friday in the Cherokee Invitational Tournament.
Hardy also added seven rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot for the Tigers (7-5). Terrence Scales contributed 12 points, nine rebounds, four steals, three assists and a blocked shot. Devante Dixon delivered nine points. Levi Mintz came away with eight points and four boards.
Denard Spears led Piedmont (3-8) with 21 points. Darnell Jackson netted eight points for the Bulldogs.
Cedar Bluff led the majority of the game. The Tigers held an 18-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Piedmont trimmed the Tiger lead to a single point at 28-27 at halftime. Cedar Bluff had a 42-40 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Sand Rock 50, Gaylesville 15
CENTRE – Chase Garrett netted 13 points and Dylan Mackey came away with 12 points to lead the Sand Rock Wildcats to a 50-15 victory over Gaylesville in the Cherokee Invitational Tournament Friday.
Dakota Mabry added six points for the Wildcats (6-6). Joel Brock and Devon Howard both finished with five points.
Gable Lawson led the Trojans (1-9) with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Sand Rock led 11-7 at the end of the first quarter, then went on a 22-3 run to take a 33-10 lead at halftime. The Wildcats extended their lead to 46-15 at the end of three quarters.