Watch Now: Jordan Cherry Delivers In Memory Of Grandfather As Normal West Borders Champaign | High school basketball
NORMAL – When Jordan Cherry walked off the bench at Normal West High School in the first quarter on Friday night, he didn’t feel alone.
âIt was a year ago yesterday,â Cherry said, referring to the death of her grandfather, Bill Cherry. “He was my # 1 fan. It (the game) meant a lot to me. I had his name and the day he was born and the day he died on my shoes. I still play for him.”
Cherry had an immediate impact. He reversed three runs to 3 in the first quarter to pit the slow-start Wildcats against Champaign Central in a Big 12 Conference boys’ basketball game. Cherry also made big plays in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 points as West earned a 47-42 victory.
“I then turned to our AD (athletic director Wes Temples) and said, ‘I guess that’s what you would call a lousy win,” “West head coach Ed Hafermann said. “That’s what we told our players at the end. But the key is the last word we said, which is a win.”
Here are some takeaways from the game as the Wildcats improved to 8-5 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12.
THE CHERRY DELIVERS
Hafermann knew that Friday “was a difficult time” for Cherry as the 6-foot-2 forward dealt with the first anniversary of his grandfather’s death. That Cherry scored 11 points in the first quarter to give the Wildcats a 17-11 lead was no surprise.
âHe played with a lot of passion and energy,â said Hafermann. “It’s something he does every time, but the state of mind he had was where he needed it.”
Cherry also came out big to start the second half. He scored six points in the third quarter after Champaign (2-7, 1-3) took the lead to give West a 35-32 advantage going into the final eight minutes.
“My teammates were giving me the ball, especially since I was shooting,” Cherry said. “We have a mindset as a team when a guy is doing well we try to work the ball his way.”
While Cherry’s short jumper down the hall tied the score at 37 points, his biggest games in the fourth quarter didn’t come scoring. His help on a quick two-on-one break against Isaac Demosthenes for a layup with 3:04 to go gave the Wildcats the lead in earnest at 42-40. Then, when the Maroons’ Dwayne Hubbard missed two free throws with 1:43 left, Cherry grabbed the key rebound.
The Wildcats only shot 33 percent from the field. Take Cherry’s 3-point shot and West went 4 of 23 out of the arc.
“We need to shoot the ball better. It was one of the surprises for our team,” said Hafermann. âIn practice and this summer we’ve shot the ball extremely well from the 3-point line, and right now the shots don’t fall. When the shots don’t fall like tonight, we have to rely on our defense. . We did a good defensive job, especially when we got to our half-court sets. “
Max Ziebarth, the Wildcats 6-5 center and leading inside scorer, had a tough game as the Maroons played a 2-3 zone most of the time. Ziebarth missed six of his first seven shots, but when Champaign came back to the man’s defense he drove inside for a basket to give West the advantage, 44-40, at the end of the fourth. quarter.
âWe played a quick little game for him and got some isolation,â Hafermann said. “He was able to cut the hip and hit the rim and do that layup. It was a great possession for us at this point.”
A LOT OF GAMES
Friday night was the Wildcats’ first game since the Beijing holiday tournament where the Wildcats went 2-2 without Hafermann and junior guard Logan Sluder, who scored 11 points, due to COVID-19 protocols.
Now the Wildcats are down to seven games in nine days, the last six on the road. West will face Granite City in the Taylorville shootout on Saturday.
âIt’s definitely going to be a long week, but me and the guys are so excited to be back to playing a lot,â Cherry said.
Key games for Hafermann come at Peoria Richwoods on Tuesday and Peoria High on Friday as the Wildcats try to stay in the thick of the Big 12 race.
“There isn’t a lot of practice between now and all of these games to improve,” Hafermann said. “We’re learning a bit on the fly in terms of games.”
Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_benson