VOORHEES – Two down, two more, celebrate in less than two days.
The Cherokee girls basketball team scored two of the biggest goals on Sunday night when Katie Fricker scored.
The Cherokee senior guard crashed into the lane, kicking out two defenders and scoring 4.1 seconds to go to give his team a winning lead in the South Jersey Championship 26-24, defeating Shawnee. It was Cherokee’s fourth win in the unofficial South Jersey Championship. It was also the 600th victory in coach Ron Powell’s coaching career, spanning three teams, three state championships, two schools and 34 seasons.
“It’s definitely good to get this win,” Fricker said. “It’s important to us, especially because one of our goals this season was to win this season. It was also a topic for us to make a quick turn. So celebrate a little tomorrow at practice, talk about it a bit and then move on to the next game. We have practice (Monday) and then play again with Shawnee on Tuesday. ”
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That’s right, Cherokee gets barely 48 hours to indulge in the glory of two achievements that most teams never experience. Tuesday offers the team a chance to test another item on its list of ambitious cases.
With the victory in their away game in Shawnee – the third meeting between the teams this year – Cherokee would win the title of the American division of the Olympic Conference. No need to remind Fricker of the next task.
“Shawnee is also great on defense,” Fricker said. “We knew it would be a battle from the beginning. We both really wanted to beat each other. And, you know, we always tried to make teams score less. They are trying to keep us at the lowest points. And it worked in the defense of both sides, and we just managed to finish it off in the end. ”
Seemingly, 26 points is not enough to beat any team, let alone one of the best in South Jersey. It could be 100.
“I mean, they had 24 points, so …” Fricker said.
The immediate award for the Cherokee was an invitation trophy and a South Jersey banner. Powell’s 600th victory awaited more. The players knew what was at stake for their coach, but they weren’t going to give any further. Too much was at stake.
“It’s definitely cool,” Fricker said. “Our goal was definitely to get it today, even if it wasn’t a championship (SJIBT). How many people here, here and our families. It was a game to get him. So it’s very interesting that we were able to do that. ”
Powell smiled politely, graciously accepting balloons, banners and good wishes. Then immediately set up the page, just as I had done 599 times before.
“I was really hoping it wouldn’t happen before this game because I didn’t really want it,” Powell said. “I’m serious. I didn’t really want it to be about me. It must be about the kids.
“Obviously we didn’t play in the attacks today. But we fought, held on and gave ourselves a chance to win. But again, it’s nothing. These numbers are nothing. I am more proud of the relationships over the years and the children, boys and girls who have been in my program. And the cultures we had. ”
Powell spent 16 years with the Rankakas Valley boys, winning state titles in 1996 and 1998. For 11 years coaching the Cherokee boys, his team in 2010 won the NJSIAA Group 4 title. In 2020, Cherokee had to play for Powell to become the only coach in New Jersey history to win state titles with three different programs when the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season three days before the state championship game.
Powell better than most understands the need to celebrate the moment and prepare for the future. On Monday, his main goal is to find a way to defeat Shawnee again.
Only then was the Cherokee able to pay attention to their next goal by winning the Group 4 tournament of South Jersey. The playoffs start on Monday. If all goes well, March 8 in the final of SJ Group 4 will host the 2nd issue of Shawnee Cherokee.
“Yes, winning the American is our next goal,” Fricker said. “From there we get to the South Jersey playoffs.”
Cherokee is not alone in this thinking. Shawnee junior Nia Scott made a free throw and tied the score 24 out of 46.6 seconds before the game. The game was very much in balance until the last beep sounded. Equally confident that they will win American and SJ Group 4 titles, and Renegades.
“I think it feeds us even more,” said Shawnee junior guard Avery Kessler. “We want to learn more from this, and when the time comes, we will win.”
The rivalry reveals the best in both teams. Kessler’s statement is not so much a boast as a confirmation of the essential confidence that has made each team so successful.
“I think we play as well as we can, no matter who we play against,” Kessler said. “If it’s a Cherokee, then we’ll play well. If it’s a different team, we have to play well. It doesn’t matter. Despite the fact that we are already playing hard, we have to play even more. ”
If the dust is cleared and battles are won or lost, Powell will be able to appreciate the steps along the way. In the meantime, there is something to work on.
The reward is coming.
“These players end up becoming your friends as they get older,” Powell said. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around, but you know, my guys from Rancocas, my guys from Cherokee and now some of the girls I started coaching six years ago are still with us. We keep in touch with them. They are an important part not only of your program but also of your life. I’m just happy to be able to share, you know, what I know about basketball with kids who enjoy playing basketball. ”
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