EVESHAM -- Cherokee sophomore guard Katie Fricker emerged from a pile-up on the hardwood and laid in a basket.
It was a textbook hustle play that also changed the course of the South Jersey Group 4 final.
Fricker’s hustle play and basket triggered a 6-0 run to end the third quarter that opened up a nine-point advantage. Cherokee finished with a 45-34 victory.
“That was probably the most important part of the game for us,” Fricker said. “We almost let them come back again, just like the Washington Township game. We really hustled as a team, we put our hearts on to the ground. At one point, there was three of us diving on the ground”
“That was a big time swing in momentum because they had seized the momentum coming back the way they did,” Cherokee head coach Ron Powell said. “Those hustle plays by Katie Fricker and the couple turnovers that happened that made it a 5-6 point lead up near double digits.”
Kennedy Wilburn followed the play with two points of her own and then another turnover resulted in a second layup for Fricker before the third-quarter buzzer sounded.
“Diving for balls, getting loose rebounds, getting 50-50s. That’s what my girls do,” Cherokee junior Alexa Therien said. “They battle out there. They put their bodies on the floor to get that ball. I’m so proud of them. They really showed up today. This feeling is awesome.”
Wilburn was a key factor in the second half, as she produced 11 points in the final two periods, with the majority coming in the paint.
“This is so special to me because it’s been a long four years,” Wilburn said. “Not having won this since my freshman year, it’s so great to finally leave the Cherokee basketball season and win a South Jersey basketball final.”
“Kennedy was a warrior,” Powell said. “Other than the St. Rose game, I would say that was her best game of the year.”
“This is the fourth time she’s played in this game,” Powell said. “We just count on her in big moments and she’s come through this year.”
The victory was even sweeter for the Chiefs, who lost at this stage a year ago to Lenape and won their first sectional crown since 2017.
“It’s ours,” Powell said. “We have a sign hung in our team room since the day after Thanksgiving that says Unfinished Business and that’s what we went by all year. Hats off to Lenape. They beat us last year, but we felt that we had some unfinished business this year and to get out of South Jersey was our goal and to be 29-1 is awesome because these kids battle and they do what we ask them to do and we’re reaping the benefit of these kids right now.”