By Phil Anastasia
It was a senior's shot.
Late in a suddenly close game, Cherokee's Kyle Kahriger found himself open on the left wing after taking a sharp pass from teammate Jake Powell.
Kahriger didn't hesitate.
He didn't miss, either.
Kahriger's three-pointer jacked Cherokee's lead to 46-40, blunted Lenape's momentum, and paved the way for the host Chiefs to cruise to a 55-45 victory in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals on Thursday night.
"I could see in his eyes at the beginning of the game that he wouldn't be afraid to take that shot," Cherokee coach Matt Shultz said of Kahriger.
Kahriger, a senior guard, scored 20 points and was 12-for-12 from the foul line for sixth-seeded Cherokee (16-8), which advanced to face seventh-seeded Southern in Saturday's semifinals.
Senior center Cole Moody scored 13 for 14th-seeded Lenape (10-18), which had upset third-seeded Millville in the first round.
"Our kids stuck in there and fought and fought," Lenape coach Chuck Guittar. "I thought we might be able to steal another one but tip your hat to Cherokee.
"Their experienced showed. They made shots."
No shot was bigger than Kahriger's three-pointer with three minutes, 29 seconds to play. It came after Lenape opened the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run.
"We needed a big play," Kahriger said. "I was lucky my teammates found me open and I was able to knock it down. They cut it to a close game and I knew I had to make a big play for my team."
Cherokee had beaten Lenape, a school district rival, twice in the regular season.
But Thursday's playoff clash drew a near-capacity crowd to Cherokee's gymnasium, with each school represented by enthusastic student sections.
"Anytime you can beat them three times in a season, you can consider yourself lucky," Shultz said of Lenape.
Cherokee has four seniors in the starting lineup and Kahriger said the bond between the players has grown tighter over the course of the season.
"We've been playing together since we were little kids," Kahriger said. "We're just trying to keep our careers going."
Lenape 8 9 13 15 -- 45
Cherokee 10 18 13 14 -- 55
L: Kelsey Gray 6, Caleb Kupa 2, Ryan McMahon 6, Cameron Green 6, Garrett Mahon 3, Matt Popso 1, Cole Moody 13, John Morgan 8.
C: Paul Bellamy 9, Kyle Kahriger 20, Ben Handel 9, Jake Powell 2, Tyler Tobin 4, Brian Cunningham 1.
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