Another Championship Season for Cherokee’s Girls’ Basketball Team

Another Championship Season for Cherokee’s Girls’ Basketball Team
Ron Powell has been the head girls’ basketball coach for five seasons at Cherokee after a tremendously successful stint a boys’ coach at Rancocas Valley and Cherokee.
 
In those five seasons, the Chiefs have reached the South Jersey Group 4 championship each season.
 
This season the Chiefs not only advanced to the final, but won it, beating rival Shawnee, 45-34, South Jersey Group 4 final.
 
Not only that, but the Chiefs then beat Montgomery, 43-27, in the state semifinal to earn a berth in the state championship. After the state semifinals, the NJSIAA cancelled the rest of the tournament due to the coronavirus.
 
“In my opinion, they should declare co-champions,” Powel lsaid.
 
If there is any justice, that should indeed happen.
 
Either way, it was quite a season for the Chiefs, who finished 30-1 and were the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey. The lone loss was to Paul VI, another Top 5 team in South Jersey.
 
What’s more impressive is that Cherokee had just one senior starter, Kennedy Wilburn, a power forward who played in four straight sectional finals.
 
“She is really athletic, a good rebounder, especially on the offensive end,” Powell said of Wilburn. “She had a special year for us. We will certainly miss her next season.”
 
Wilburn was at her best in some of the biggest games. In Cherokee’s sectional title win over Shawnee, she had a game-high 15 points, along with six rebounds.
 
Alexa Therien, a 6-1 junior, was a consensus all-South Jersey performer. She averaged more than 15 points per game.
 
That is even a misleading statistic because Cheroee played so many low-scoring games because the Chiefs has one of the best defenses in South Jersey. Therien, who two older sisters play for Loyola Maryland.
 
According to Powell, Therien whose father is former Flyer Chris Therien, has already received about 15 scholarship offers.
 
“She can play with her back to the basket or can face it and shoot,” Powell said of Therien. “She competes at a high level, is a great kid and has a lot of upside.”
 
Another key starter was freshman forward Gabby Recinto. She missed about a month of the season with an ankle injury but return just before the state tournament and was a key contributor to the sectional title. Sophomore guard Katie Fricker, averaged nearly nine points a game. Among other key contributors were senior Olivia Kessler, sophomore CJ Apistar, and freshman Avery Kessler.
 
With such a young team, Cherokee will enter next season highly regarded. What was even more impressive about the Chiefs is that they played such a tough schedule. They were the champions of one of the deepest divisions in South Jersey the Olympic American. That meant two regular season wins over the likes of Lenape and Washington, and another postseason victory over Township.
 
Cherokee also beat South Jersey Group 3 champion Ocean City, South Jersey Group 3 finalist Mainland, Non-Public A power St. Rose of Belmar, just to name a few.

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Cherokee has never dodged playing a tough schedule and it clearly helped the Chiefs during the tournament. That’s when Cherokee has been at its best, five years and running.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo courtesy of Cherokee Girls Basketball

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