The Absegami High School boys’ basketball team seized a big lead early, but wasn’t able to hold on Thursday morning, Dec. 27.
The Braves fell to Cherokee, 57-49, in an Ernie Troiano Senior Memorial Bracket first round game at the Boardwalk Classic at the Wildwoods Convention Center, according to statistics on the tournament’s website.
Absegami (1-4) will face either district rival Cedar Creek in the consolation game Friday afternoon at 12:30.
The Braves got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 7-2 lead behind six points from Shustov, including a three-pointer with 5:03 left in the first quarter.
However, Cherokee (3-2) climbed its way back into the game, and pulled to within one point, 9-8, at the end of the first quarter.
The trend continued into the second quarter, and the Chiefs took their first lead of the game with 2:30 left in the half. Trailing 21-20, Kevin Wixted forced a turnover and hit a field goal off a fast break to give Cherokee a 22-21 lead.
The Braves momentarily wrested the lead back from Cherokee on an Anderson field goal with 2:19 left in the half, but a Brian Cunningham trey at the 1:58 mark gave Cherokee the 25-23 lead.
The Chiefs stretched that lead to 27-23, but a free throw made by Marvin Green and a field goal by Anderson cut the lead to 27-26 at halftime.
The teams continued to trade the lead early in the second half, with a Christmon field goal at the 7:09 mark of the third quarter giving Absegami the 28-27 lead.
Wixted gave the Chiefs a 29-28 lead with 6:14 to go in the third, but Christmon responded once more with a bucket with 5:58 to go. Absegami had a 30-29 lead.
Wixted gave Cherokee the lead back off a turnover and basket with 5:33 left, for a 31-30 lead.
The Chiefs stretched that lead to 33-30, but Darryl Loveland pulled the Braves within one with a free throw. He then forced a turnover, and after the Braves missed two shots, Shustov hit a field goal to tie the game at 33-33.
A Wixted three-point shot gave the Chiefs the lead back with 2:21 left in the third. Cherokee was able to stretch the lead to nine, 44-35, to end the third quarter.
The Chiefs maintained the lead throughout the fourth quarter and were able to turn it into a tournament victory. Cherokee will Woodbury play for the bracket championship Friday afternoon at 2:15. Woodbury defeated Cedar Creek, 55-46, on Thursday.
Shustov led the Braves with a game-high 28 points, two assists, a block and four rebounds. Christmon had 12 points, two assists, three blocks, and four rebounds. Loveland had six points, a steal and five rebounds.
Vinnie Nelson had five points and two steals. Green had three points, an assist and a rebound. Anderson had two points, five assists and four rebounds. Justin Rice had two assists and a steal, and Matt Fetske had a rebound.
Wixted had 18 points, three assists, six steals and two rebounds for the Chiefs.