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Savannah Samuel stars with 23 of 29 River Ridge second half points to carry Lady Knights past Sequoyah, 54-48

River Ridge 54, Sequoyah 48

River Ridge moved into third-place in R6-AAAAAA

The War Lodge was host to an important Region 6-AAAAAA matchup between Sequoyah (16-5, 7-4) and the River Ridge Knights (15-5, 8-3). Deadlocked at 7-3 apiece in the standings, the winner would control third-place in the top-heavy region while No. 3 Harrison (16-4, 11-0) and No. 4 Creekview (13-6, 8-2) manned the top spots. The Lady Knights shook off a nightmarish opening four minutes to regain their composure and methodically chip away at an early deficit, eventually gaining control and closing out a 54-48 road win behind sophomore Savannah Samuel’s sensational night.

The Lady Chiefs jumped all over the Knights, forcing four quick turnovers and leading 8-0 at the 6:09 mark. Coach Jason Taylor laid into his players, exclaiming they were about to get ran out of the gym if they didn’t take better care of the ball. Another two minutes went by and things didn’t get much better, the Lady Chiefs up 14-4 as Sydney Rosant and AnnaLynne Bennett scored six apiece in the frame.

River Ridge would close on an 11-4 run to end the quarter down 18-15, Mary Allen Mansell sparking the Lady Knights with six early points and Samuel adding five.

The two teams traded buckets in the second quarter. Peyton Satterfield got hot with two threes for Sequoyah, but River Ridge’s size began to pose a problem as 6-foot-2 Lexi Palmer and 6-foot Faith Arthur scored four points apiece around the basket. Arthur added a contested jumper in the lane at the buzzer as the Knights entered the half trailing 28-25.

In the third quarter, Samuel took over. The 6-foot-1 wing led the charge as the Knights pounded the smaller Lady Chiefs on the boards. Samuel’s first six points of the quarter all came on put-backs as River Ridge finally got over the hump and seized their first lead of the game at 33-31 with 3:55 remaining.

At the end of three, River Ridge held a 37-36 advantage. Samuel scored 10 points in the quarter while Arthur crashed the glass alongside Samuel for second chance opportunities.

The Knights shut down senior leader Alyssa Cagle, who had only two points, both coming from the free throw line in the first quarter. With Cagle unable to find a field goal, the Lady Chiefs scrambled for baskets. Sequoyah trailed 41-40 before Samuel drilled a three in the corner to go up four with 3:33 left.

Samuel would finish with a game-high 30 points, scoring 23 of her team’s 29 second half points.

Macy Williams knocked down two free throws for the Chiefs to cut the lead to 46-44 with 2:18 to play, but Samuel continued to score at will, netting 13 points in the final frame, going 8-of-10 from the line.

Rosant floated in a tough bucket in the lane with 54 seconds remaining to make it a 50-48 game, but the Lady Chiefs were unable to keep the ball out of Samuel’s hands as she punished them from the line.

Sequoyah had a last gasp to make it a one possession game, but the Lady Knights got a crucial stop that resulted in a Leigh Codiniera rebound and two free throws at the other end with 13 seconds left to ice the game 54-48.

My Take

Cherokee County girls basketball just got that much more interesting. It would be too cliché to say a star was born, considering Savannah Samuel has averaged 20.9 points and 5.6 rebounds, but the 6-foot-1 sophomore transfer from Collins Hill has changed the outlook of an entire program. Gwinnett County’s loss is Cherokee County’s gain. Samuel was phenomenal, taking over the game against one the state’s best programs over the past four years. A lanky, fluid athlete that’s all arms and legs, Samuel can get to the hoop and finish through contact. She can stretch teams out to the three-point line and is a nuisance on the glass. She has a High Major D-I ceiling and could be one of the best players the county has seen in quite some time, a county with a rich tradition of girls basketball. River Ridge’s frontline did major damage against the Chiefs; Sequoyah’s one glaring weakness. While the entire roster took a backseat to Samuel in the second half, Faith Arthur and Lexi Palmer were relentless on the boards, taking Samuel’s lead. Arthur has a physical, sturdy frame that allows her to play inside and out. With three players standing over 6-foot, the Knights have the ability to dominate the paint. Freshman Leigh Codiniera showed promise and composure while handling the point guard duties. She went 4-of-4 from the line including the final two points of the game. Depth will be a major issue for the Knights come state tournament time. Outside of their starters, Sabrina Roberts and Emily Ruth combined for three rebounds and one steal; the only stats contributed by the bench.

Sequoyah looked like they were going to blitz the Lady Knights, coming out with intense defensive pressure, but eventually River Ridge settled in and the Lady Chiefs’ large lead evaporated by the end of the first quarter. Sydney Rosant came out firing. There’s not many shots the high-scoring junior won’t take. She was finding baskets early on and hit her season average with 13 points. The insertion of AnnaLynne Bennett into the starting lineup over tallest player, 5-foot-9 Emily Seres, paid early dividends. The engine that makes Sequoyah go, unsigned senior Alyssa Cagle, was held to two first quarter free throws. While she was unable to score, she affected the game in other ways, the 5-foot-6 bulldog leading the Lady Chiefs with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Her offense hasn’t been as consistent this year, but credit some of that to her deferring to Rosant. Sophomore Macy Williams had six points. She’s instant energy off the bench for Coach Derrick DeWitt. Williams is the next in a long line of tenacious Lady Chief guards. She is a major competitor on the floor.

Top Performers

River Ridge
Savannah Samuel – 30 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Faith Arthur – 8 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Lexi Palmer – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks
Mary Allen Mansell – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Leigh Codiniera – 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Sequoyah
Sydney Rosant – 13 points, 2 rebounds
Peyton Satterfield – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Macy Williams – 6 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals
AnnaLynne Bennett – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block
Colby Carden – 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Alyssa Cagle – 2 points, 8 rebounds, 5 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.”