South Jersey Group 4 Girls’ Basketball Preview: Cherokee the Team to Beat

South Jersey Group 4 Girls’ Basketball Preview: Cherokee the Team to Beat
Last season Lenape won the South Jersey Group 4 girls’ basketball title and the Indians eventually advanced to the state final before losing to Franklin. The Indians beat fellow Lenape School District rival Cherokee for the South Jersey title. Now the roles are reversed, with Cherokee the favorite and Lenape a worthy challenger. Here is a preview of the tournament:
First tournament game: March 3
Sectional final: March 9
State semifinal: March 11
State final: March 15
Defending champion: Lenape beat Cherokee, 41-30 in the sectional final
What stands out: The strength of Cherokee’s schedule. The Chiefs began the week 23-1 while competing in what is arguably the toughest division in South Jersey, the Olympic American, which means two games each against the likes of Lenape, Washington Township and Eastern. The lone loss, was last week’s 64-40 defeat to Paul VI, another of South Jersey’s top teams.
Outlook: While Cherokee is the favorite, Lenape should seriously contend. Cherokee junior center Alexa Therien is leading the way, averaging more than 15 points per game for coach Ron Powell’s team. Therien is the latest member of her family to star for the Chiefs. Her sisters Alexa and Izzy were also standouts and are now playing Division I basketball at Loyola, Maryland.
If Cherokee is to advance, the Chiefs are likely going to have to get by some familiar foes. Also in Cherokee’s bracket is No. 5 Washington Township. The Minutemaids lost twice to Cherokee, but the second time was a 28-27 defensive thriller. (Therien saved the day for Cherokee by scoring 16 of the 28 points).
Township, guided by veteran coach Jenn Natale, has a dominant player in 6-1 Emily Johns, who is an American University recruit. Before a potential third meeting with Cherokee, Township will likely have to defeat No. 4 Williamstown in the second round. On Jan. 25, Township beat Williamstown, 42-37 and if they meet again, the game is expected to be just as close.
In the other bracket, the two teams to watch are No. 2 Lenape and No. 3 Clearview, who could meet in the semifinals.
Lenape, like all the Olympic American schools, has played an ambitious schedule, which includes wins over Group 3 powers Mainland and Ocean City, while splitting two games against Washington Township.

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Clearview has one of the younger teams in the field. The Pioneers have split two games with Williamstown and recently were competitive in a 62-49 loss to highly regarded Paul VI. The Pioneers are led by senior guard Bella Steidle (18 ppg.) and has two freshmen, guard Aaryn Battle and forward Kassidy Thompson playing prominent roles.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci


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