Evan Berry hit a 3-point shot from the left corner at the buzzer to put the Falcons into overtime. From there, Volunteer controlled the extra session in a 62-57 win over the host Chiefs in a District 1-AAA boys basketball play-in game Monday night.
Berry’s shot came after Micah Jones had put Cherokee ahead 52-49 with his own 3-pointer from the right corner with 13 seconds left. Berry, who was wearing a LeBron James Lakers T-shirt, didn’t have a chance to think about his game-tying shot before launching it.
“It was probably the biggest shot of my career, but I didn’t think about it like that,” Berry said. “I make those in practice all the time and I took the shot like every other shot. It went in and I got the credit.”
Volunteer coach Mike Poe, a former coach at Science Hill and David Crockett, called Berry a great shooter.
“He caught it, squared up and the breaks went our way,” Poe said. “They made a great shot. The rivalry between the two gets you to play extra hard.
The Falcons (9-21) had a balanced effort led by freshman Andrew Knittel’s 15 points and Dakota Hicks’ 13. Bradin Minton and Berry each scored nine, followed by Jon Wes Lovelace with eight.
Playing in front of an electric atmosphere with enthusiastic crowds for both sides, Poe wasn’t surprised to see the game go down to the wire.
“Not only was it Volunteer and Cherokee, it’s postseason play with a chance to advance,” Poe said. “I’m overjoyed for these kids. They’ve been through some rough times, but they persevered and stayed together.
“The last few games, we’ve done a lot of growing up. These young guys at the end of the game handling adversity, hopefully it will continue to pay off for them.”
Cherokee led 48-43 after a steal and layup by Breiydon Gilliam, who scored a game-high 22 points. It was hard for either team to gain much of an advantage and neither led by more than five points in regulation.
Carter Metz scored 19 points in the Chiefs’ season-ender, and Jones added nine.
“Our seniors played hard and gave everything they had,” Cherokee coach Trey Fields said. “I’m super proud of them. We competed hard the whole season. But we had some slumps where we’ve lost basketball games by two or three. You keep doing that enough and you eventually bleed out, I guess.
“We’ve got to get back to work in a hurry. I know it’s a whole year away, but we’re behind in many ways.”
Volunteer will take on David Crockett next on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
LADY VIKINGS ADVANCE
Kenzie Nickels scored 17 points and the Lady Vikings (8-22) overcame a slow start to beat the Lady Chiefs (7-23) 30-22 in the tournament opener.
Cherokee scored the game’s first nine points before Nickels gave Tennessee High its first bucket with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
The Lady Vikings kept moving forward as Cherokee struggled offensive in the second quarter. The Lady Chiefs scored first for an 11-4 lead, but those were the only points. Tennessee High tied the game on a Nickels bucket with 3:55 left in the half. Kendall Cross gave the Lady Vikings the lead 28 seconds later and they took a 13-11 advantage into the locker room.
Up by one at the end of three quarters, Tennessee High clinched the game at the free-throw line.
“They came out ready to play. It’s hard to beat somebody three time, especially in the first round of the tournament on their home court, but we weathered the storm,” Lady Vikings coach Kim Bright said. “Our defense started putting more pressure on the ball.
“Kenzie has been playing well and the girls did a good job getting the ball into her. She got into some foul trouble early, but she played very smart.”
Lydia Alvis led Cherokee with nine points and Sam Tilson had six.
“We started off the game well and all of a sudden we couldn’t get the shots to fall,” Cherokee coach Jason Lawson said. “We were getting good looks, but they were rattling all around the rim. We couldn’t convert.
“We’ve had our ups and downs this season, but we definitely improved. We’re the youngest team in the conference by far, but there were some bright spots. Hopefully, we will get to work in the offseason and be ready to go next season.”
Tennessee High advanced to play Dobyns-Bennett on Wednesday at 6 p.m.