Tag Archives: Sequoyah

Adversity can’t hold back Sequoyah’s Alyssa Cagle

There have been two aspects synonymous with Sequoyah Lady Chiefs basketball over the past three, now going on four years; wins and Alyssa Cagle. It could be argued that winning and Alyssa Cagle could go hand-in-hand with each other, something that Coach Derrick DeWitt would not argue.

“She is definitely an anchor; an insurance policy and she exemplifies what Sequoyah basketball is all about,” said DeWitt of Cagle of who is first in her class and on pace to become valedictorian of the 2018 Sequoyah graduating class.

While Cagle has strived both on the hardwood and in the classroom over her first three years, it has not come without adversity.

“The first week in January I broke my nose in a game against Harrison,” explained Cagle. “I had surgery a couple days later and then I came back from the surgery about a week later and wore a mask. Then my second game back, I tore my ACL on January 21st against Cherokee.”

The Lady Chiefs would lose to rival Cherokee 52-49 and see a 14-5 start to the year finish 5-5 over the last 10 games of the season including a three-game losing streak capped by a 59-51 loss in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs at Winder-Barrow while Cagle was forced to watch from the sidelines with her team-best 12.4 points, 2.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game unable to make a difference.

“I was MVP of my team, so me going down was a huge thing for my team. I’ve always been that kind of person that leads by example so it was hard to provide that guidance for the team, whatever they needed, when I couldn’t physically be on the court,” said Cagle of how difficult it was to watch a promising season derail by injuries. “It was just hard watching them. It just kind of hits home.”

One day after surgery

It was also especially tough for DeWitt, who has helped groom Cagle from Day 1 when he thrusted her into a starting role and has seen her blossom into one of the best pound-for-pound point guards in Georgia.

“As a supporter and a believer of her talent as a fan, I was just sad to see her go down late in the year like that,” said DeWitt. “I was sad for her because when she broke her nose, she wanted to stay in the game and she was like ‘no, I’m finishing this game’ and I was like you can’t, your nose is bent. She’s just a warrior, she doesn’t want anything to get in her way. She doesn’t want to let her teammates down. She is very motivated to get to the next level.”

A first-round loss for Cagle’s Lady Chiefs was a first in three years. As a freshman, Cagle helped Sequoyah to an Elite Eight berth where they lost on a buzzer beater to Stephenson, 55-53, a game in which Cagle dropped in 12 points and five assists. In 2015-16 as a sophomore, the Lady Chiefs took a step further and advanced to the Final Four where they ran out of energy and fell to Southwest DeKalb 55-47. Both Stephenson and Southwest DeKalb went on to win the state championship after clearing the Sequoyah hurdle.

Culture Changer

Since Cagle has joined the Sequoyah varsity roster, the Lady Chiefs are 71-21. She has been on the forefront along with Coach DeWitt of the renaissance of Sequoyah basketball, a girls program which won the state title in Georgia’s largest classification back in 1994 & 1996.

With still a final year of eligibility remaining, Cagle hasn’t wasted anytime in getting her body ready to be able to write the final chapter of her storied career.

“Typically, with any ACL injury, it’s going to take you a full-year to be where you were before you had the injury. Right now, I’m four months post-surgery. I couldn’t be doing anymore to prepare for the season. I’m going to come back at nine months, which a lot of people do,” told Cagle of her daily progress.

“To prepare for that, I work out about five to six days a week with a trainer in Sandy Springs, at a place called Exercise Bioenergetics. It’s a huge two and a half hour full-body work out. I’ll probably do this for the next year until I go off to college, even after I begin playing again.”

Cagle will begin practicing again in September, but won’t be at full speed until the nine-month mark.

16 weeks after surgery
Silver Linings

Once Cagle returns to the floor, she will be surrounded by familiar faces as Sequoyah graduates just one senior from their 19-10 roster. With the Lady Chiefs’ primary ballhandler on the sidelines for the final 10 games of the season, it gave the rest of the team a chance to step up and benefit from their newfound roles.

“I think my absence is going to better us in the long run. For the past three years, I have been the sole ballhandler. There are no other ballhandlers on our team. So without me, a lot of the girls have stepped up, which next year that will definitely pay off because we will have more ballhandlers with more experience being alone without me out there. Whenever I return, hopefully we’ll be a better team than we were last year.”

Next Level

As the days get shorter and shorter until Cagle’s return to the floor for her senior season, as does her time to pick up scholarship offers and decide what to do with her life after her time in Hickory Flat is complete.

“It’s been difficult now that I hurt my knee. A lot of coaches want to see me play again, but the schools I am talking to right now are Wofford, Jacksonville State, Stony Brook, Stetson, Samford, Georgia College, and Georgia State.

“I’m interested in anywhere,” continued Cagle. “I definitely want to play basketball in college.”

On June 15, Georgia College offered Cagle a full-ride.

With an immaculate academic background, a strong work ethic and desire to be the best, DeWitt believes Cagle will find the right fit in college.

“If you want a floor general, someone who knows the situation, knows how to call the right play, how to finish late in the shot clock, how to find the hot hand, a player who doesn’t get tired, that’s a student of the game and is a quality character; she’s not a gamble on any level,” expressed DeWitt. “She can thrive in Division II or Division I, she’s all about her academics and athletics and she’s focused on having basketball be her gateway.

“Being probably our valedictorian, she’s going to have the run of the mill as far as what school she wants to attend. Is she a gamble? No. She’s very coachable. She’ll do what’s best for the team, she’s selfless and she’s a leader by example.”

No. 7 Sequoyah holds off pesky Wolverines

No. 7 Sequoyah 57, Woodstock 54

Cherokee County powers met at the War Lodge in Hickory Flat, Sequoyah entering at a perfect 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAA while Woodstock, limping in with injuries at 4-4 without South Alabama-signee Devyn Lowe.

On a rare Monday night showdown, the Lady Chiefs and Wolverines went back and forth with both sides trading runs. Sequoyah led 12-11 after one behind Alyssa Cagle’s five points. The Lady Chiefs were on the verge of a taking an commanding early double digit lead if it wasn’t for the hot shooting of senior Taylor Reed. The long ball threat scored seven of her 10 points in the first quarter and drained three threes on the night while using a flare screen to get open on the opposite wing.

In the second quarter, Cagle picked up a hockey assist as she dished to Emily Seres who found AnnaLynne Bennett on a nice interior pass to go up 19-13.

Sequoyah opened up a quick 24-13 lead on a 12-2 run and looked like they were about to put the banged up Wolverines away, but athletic senior slasher Bralise Reese got free and powered a 13-4 run with six of her game-high 16 points in the frame, leading the Wolverines into the half trailing 28-26.

The Lady Chiefs sprung out of the half quickly using five points from Colby Carden. The junior combo guard sank her seventh point of the quarter to give Sequoyah a 40-31 lead with 1:37 left in the third. Sequoyah finished out the period using a Lauren Schletty basket to maintain a 44-33 lead heading into the fourth.

In the blink of an eye, Woodstock crawled its way back into the game riding a 10-2 surge to cut the Sequoyah lead to 46-43. Senior point guard Kamryn Forrester was the catalyst, scoring six of her 10 points in the final 8 minutes and finishing the game with four rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block.

The Wolverines finally tied the game on freshman Sophia Singer’s three-pointer but Carden quickly got the ball up the court and found Schletty to regain a 48-46 lead at the 2:49 mark. Schletty got hot and scored six of her 10 points in the fourth including sinking two free throws to go ahead 52-46 with 2:11 left, the Lady Chiefs seemingly regaining control of the game.

Instead, Forrester came away with a steal underneath the basket and while tumbling down, kicked the ball behind her to Reese for two of her eight fourth quarter points to make it 56-54 with 42.6 seconds remaining.

Sequoyah’s Bennett was sent to the line with 27 seconds and missed her first free throw, prompting Woodstock head coach Julie Crowe to call timeout and organize a plan for the Wolverines. Bennett coolly knocked down her second attempt, setting up a final possession with 18.5 seconds left for Woodstock after advancing the ball and moving past half court.

Woodstock swung the ball around the perimeter but the best look they could get was a contested Reese heave from the top of the key that clanked off the rim.

My Take

Though she missed two free throws in the fourth quarter and didn’t have as many “wow” plays as usual, junior point guard Alyssa Cagle is still the real deal for Sequoyah. Every time she touches the ball good things happen whether she’s slashing through the lane, finding open shooters or pulling the trigger from deep herself. Coach Derrick DeWitt praised her for even her post defense when getting stuck on bigger Wolverines. As long as she’s in Black and Gold, the Lady Chiefs will be an issue statewide come February and March. She is the leader of a potent 7-man junior class which sees Colby Carden and Peyton Satterfield flank her as dangerous shooters. Carden moves in from Sprayberry, following father Allen Carden who is head coach of the boys team. She played very well with Cagle and provides a versatile scoring punch and high IQ alongside floor general Cagle. Lauren Schletty, one of two seniors on the roster, really came up big in the fourth quarter; she does some nice things around the basket. Without any Hartmans on the roster, Sequoyah’s one bugaboo when it comes to contending for a state title might be their lack of size.

Woodstock has been stung with injuries but that didn’t stop the Wolverines from fighting to the very end. Kamryn Forrester was excellent as an energizer bunny all over the floor, affecting the game in multiple ways. Taylor Reed used Coach Crowe’s flare screen offense to perfection in the first half with three threes. I loved Bralise Reese’s athleticism and tenacity. She was cat-quick getting to the rim and had a great second leap to clean up misses. Her 16-point 10-rebound double-double was a strong effort. A name to stow away in the memory bank is freshman Sophia Singer. The 5-foot-10 youngster resembles Olivia Nelson-Ododa with her long and lanky frame but of course, not at her height or skill set. She knocked down a big three in the fourth quarter and rebounded well.

Top Performers

Sequoyah
Colby Carden – 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals
Alyssa Cagle – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Lauren Schletty – 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals 1 block
Peyton Satterfield – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Emily Seres – 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist

Woodstock
Bralise Reese – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 block
Kamryn Forrester – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Taylor Reed – 10 points, 4 rebounds
Brittany Burnett – 7 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

Cherokee County Media Day

Etowah High School hosted Cherokee County Media Day on Tuesday morning. The boys went first for an hour followed by the girls. Much to my chagrin, I was only able to stick around for the boys portion of the event before having to hustle over to the office. Here’s some news and notes from my homeland.

 

Woodstock

Head Coach: Kingston Clark
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 14-15 

How to become a perennial state playoff team in their new region: “We’ve been working out and conditioning. It’s going to be a tough task. We don’t have Wheeler to worry about any more, thank God for that. Milton’s gone, but it’s wide open. One through six, anybody can come up and win the region.”

What the Class of 2017 means to the program: “We have a great group of seniors. Tyreke [Johnson] was First Team All-Region last year, so he actually has something to prove. Brant [Hurter] signed with Georgia Tech already with a baseball scholarship. Cam [Crowe] has had several people looking at him so he has several offers on the table. They have a lot to prove. First and foremost, the very first thing I talked to them about when I walked into Woodstock’s gymnasium, there were no banners on the wall for boys basketball. So that is the number one goal, that those guys want to leave that legacy so they can come back and have something hanging on that wall they can say they played a part of.”

 

Cherokee

Head Coach: Roger Kvam
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 12-14 

On the importance of Phil Cirillo and the senior class: “Phil’s been on the varsity for three years so has Eli [Mayberry] and Jack Carroll, who’s been on for four years, so we have a lot of experience. Jack was on the team as a freshman and actually started. I count on all three of those guys for leadership. Phil is very talented, he can do a lot of different things and play a lot of different positions. We kind of use him like a Queen in chess to do a lot of different things. I feel like we underachieved last year. We were not good on defense and we were kind of selfish on offense and I think we addressed that this summer a little bit.”

 

Etowah

Head Coach: Allen Whitehart
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 14-14 

How to shape a new winning culture at Etowah: “First and foremost we came in with hard work immediately in the weight room. Most of the kids haven’t really lifted before. I feel like if you can go in there and push through barriers and kind of get a little strain going you can find out about yourself and that translates right over to the floor. We talked about everything being first class. You’ve got to look the part as well as be the part. I was fortunate enough while I was at Buford High School to be around phenomenal coaches: Gene Durden, Jess Simpson, Tony Wolfe and took a little bit from them. I was smart enough to steal a little bit and take some of that with me.”

On Kam Hickey: “He is going to be playing a 3/4 position for us. He’s going to be really counted on to be a mismatch for us for what we do offensively.”

On Lewis Simonson: “He did not play last year but he is going to be counted on as one of our leaders and someone who can knock down shots.”

On Julian Baldwin & Adrian Cohen: “Julian has a chance to have a great year. We really worked hard with his consistency, getting him stronger. His understanding of the game has really come around a lot. I feel like if he continues to improve at the rate he’s improving he will have a chance to have a phenomenal year. Another kid with a chance for a breakout year is Adrian Cohen. Adrian had a phenomenal fall and phenomenal summer on the [AAU] circuit. Again, consistency is something we are preaching with him as well. He has games when he looks like a really high level player. If those four can have consistency, they can really help us go.”

 

Sequoyah

Head Coach: Allen Carden
Region 6-AAAAAA
2015-16: 20-9 

How to build an identity with a young and inexperienced group: “We’ve talked about that from Day 1 in the weight room – our culture is going to be hard work. We are going to identify with being a strong defensive team. We are going to play smart fundamental basketball. We are going to act the right way and do the right things. As much as I talk about defensive rebounding, everybody knows you still have to put the ball in the hole so you’ve got to be strong skill-wise. But identity, we are always going to hang our hat on playing defense.”

 

Creekview

Head Coach: Casey Gramling
Region 6-AAAAAA
2015-16: 16-10 

How to become a state playoff team year-in and year-out: “That’s the million dollar question. Of course we want to be there and we do have some good pieces this year and we are trying to make a couple culture changes. One of the things we did was my team didn’t participate in a fall league this year. Now the kids are playing 100 games a year and those 25 games they play for their school just represented other games. We are trying to bring it back to where when they put on a Creekview uniform it means something to them.”

On the continuing emergence of KJ Jenkins: “KJ is a junior point guard, incredibly talented. He will be a third-year varsity player and he’s always had that mentality since he was a younger kid on the team. We are working on with him building that leadership role because this is his team and he’s the point guard. It’s a work in progress and he is doing really well in his new role. The kid can score, he’s smooth. He’s got a great shot, he can defend. We’ve had more college coaches in my gym in the last two months than we’ve had in my last two years I’ve been here. They are coming to watch KJ, they are coming to watch Chandler [Wright] and Weber [Sandlin].”

 

River Ridge

Head Coach: Ben Farist
Region 6-AAAAAA
2015-16: 8-18 

How to be patient with a young program and find a way to establish itself in a tough region: “I think a lot of it is not only now what we are doing, but investing in our junior program and realizing that they are the future of what we have but coaching who we have now. We aren’t getting any transfers in or anything crazy like that. So control what we can control. Working hard in the weight room to build athletes that we have currently in our program and making the offense more conducive to what we are good at.”

Sequoyah Sweeps Preseason Tilt With Langston Hughes

5ASequoyah 78,  6ALangston Hughes 69

Two teams on the precipice of cracking the top ten in their respective classifications met in the War Lodge in a preseason scrimmage. Missed opportunities and runs were the story of the game. Coach Rory Welsh’s 94-feet of pressure defense had the Sequoyah Chiefs on their heels early on, as the Panthers jumped out to an 11-3 lead. Jordan Usher of Sequoyah started out slowly, but found his first points of the game at the 1:41 mark of the first quarter. From that point on, it was all Chiefs.

Sequoyah would go on a 21-2 run to open up a 28-17 advantage mid-way through the second quarter before Khalil Cuffee would quiet the storm and score 11 of his game-high 27 points in the first half. At the break Sequoyah led 36-30 thanks to big second quarters from Cameron Cox, who announced before tip-off he would play his college ball at Navy, and Usher. At the half Cox led all scorers with 13 points while Usher added 8.

Usher defending Cuffee as Coach Welsh looks on
Usher defending Cuffee as Coach Welsh looks on

After trading offensive fouls to start the second half, Cuffee canned three straight three-pointers to take a 39-38 lead. Hunter Gaddis of Sequoyah fought for an offensive rebound and scored a contested putback at the buzzer to give the home-standing Chiefs a 54-51 advantage heading into the decisive final quarter.

Free throws crushed the Panthers’ hopes of winning as Langston Hughes shot just 6-of-14 from the line in the fourth, featuring key misses from Cuffee and Derrick Cook, who combined to go 3-of-10. Sequoyah converted 12-of-17 free throws in the final frame to stem the tide and hold off the Panthers.

Free throws doomed the Panthers
Free throws doomed the Panthers

Turning Point: Langston Hughes fought back from a 66-57 deficit and had a chance to make it 66-63 with just over 2:30 remaining in regulation, but a blown opportunity at a point-blank look turned into a Chiefs fastbreak layup, making it 68-61 with 2:39 to play.

Highlight of the Night: Jordan Usher and Hunter Gaddis punched in back-to-back slams on the fastbreak to give Sequoyah a 64-56 advantage.

My Take: The guard play did not disappoint. Khalil Cuffee looked extremely smooth and should have Division-I colleges knocking at his door. Cameron Cox stole the show in what was an emotional night, committing to Navy. Cox, like Jordan Usher, rebounded from a slow start and scored his first points of the night on a baseline jam. Role players Levi Biddy and Hunter Gaddis get a lot of credit for the W. Derrick Cook did a little bit of everything for the Panthers. I think the early setback will be a good wakeup call for the Panthers as they enter a gauntlet of a regular season schedule. Coach Welsh’s team showed good discipline, they just could not convert from in close or at the line. Give credit to Sequoyah for not folding after a slow first few minutes and bouncing back to give the Panthers a punch in the mouth and take momentum.

Top Performers:

Sequoyah
Cameron Cox – 26 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals
Jordan Usher – 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Levi Biddy – 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals
Hunter Gaddis – 10 points, 5 reboundsimage2

Langston Hughes
Khalil Cuffee – 27 points, 3 rebounds
Derrick Cook – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals
Justin Jones – 13 points, 3 reboundsimage1 (3)

Girls

Sequoyah 61, Langston Hughes 43

Two crucial spurts put the Lady Panthers away. Sequoyah led 22-15 at the half and used a 22-to-8 run to gain a 44-23 advantage heading into the fourth. Langston Hughes fought back and cut the Lady Chiefs lead to 49-38 with 3:14 remaining, but a 9-0 run ballooned the lead to 58-38 with 48.8 seconds left ending the comeback bid. Kelley Hartman and the rest of the Sequoyah length hurt the Panthers inside, while Megan Garcia’s three-point shooting and super sophomore Alyssa Cagle’s all-around ball handling and shooting powered the She-Chiefs attack.