The Lady Warriors lost by five points in the area tournament to the Lady Golden Eagles, dashing their hopes for a state title run. Instead, it was Jacksonville that marched on to Birmingham and hoisted the Class 4A state championship trophy.
On Friday, the two teams met for the first time since, with an entirely different result.
Burk sank 8 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, including all four of her attempts in the game's final 30 seconds to lift No. 9 Cherokee County to a 49-46 home victory over the third-ranked Lady Golden Eagles. It was Jacksonville's first loss of the season (7-1, 1-1, Area 11). The Lady Warriors improved to 10-2 (2-0 Area 11).
"In the beginning of the game, I just couldn't hit free throws. I wasn't having a good game with them, but I knew I needed to make them for my team (down the stretch)," said Burk, who finished with 14 points with an 8-of-12 performance from the line. "It's a great honor to beat them. They put us out and beat us in the area tournament last year. It's a great feeling. They played a great game, but I'm glad down the stretch we pulled it out."
Cherokee County coach Travis Barnes said Burk was probably the reason the Lady Warriors won the game.
"The rest of the team was struggling, but she kind of put us on her back at the end and hit her free throws when it counted," Barnes said. "Our defense kind of let up at the end and we got tired. We only played seven players, but we were able to get rebounds when we needed to and she was able to put her free throws in when she needed to.
While Burk made her presence felt at the line, senior forward Tori Davis made hers inside the paint. Davis, coming off a 43-point performance at Alexandria on Tuesday, netted 17 points against Jacksonville.
"That's the two people I've been preaching about in practice the past couple of days. I told them that's who we've got to stop," Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless said. "In the first half, I don't think we did a good job of that at all. The second half, we might have slowed them down some, but the first half they had their way with us.
"They're a really good team and really well-coached. They're good at what they do, and we weren't good at what we do tonight. We didn't play good defense overall, at least not like we're capable of. We just didn't shoot the ball well at all. Sometimes you have those days. It's better to have them early in the season than late."
Like Chambless said, the Lady Golden Eagles struggled shooting, particularly at the line. They made only 3 of their 14 free-throw attempts.
"I don't think we shot the ball well from anywhere," Chambless said. "I don't know how many layups we missed. We didn't have a good night shooting, that's for sure. I don't remember us making a 3-point shot. Usually we make six or seven or more. We didn't shoot the ball well from there. We didn't shoot free throws well. I don't know if we were rushing ourselves, but I don't think it was lack of effort. I think the effort was there. We just had one of those days where we didn't play too well and Centre's a darn good team. You can't do that against a good team and expect to win."
Despite their offensive struggles, Jacksonville had a chance to win the game late. They rallied from an eight-point deficit at 40-32 with 3:08 left in the game. The Lady Golden Eagles briefly took the lead at 46-45 with 39.3 seconds remaining on a rebound and putback by Darrien Martin.
Jacksonville had chances to add to its advantage, but Burk managed to score the game's final four points at the line to allow the Lady Warriors to escape with the win.
"We knew they were probably going to chip away at it (the lead)," Barnes said. "They did a good job. They spread the floor a little bit and kind of isolated Kenyatta Ervin in the post. I think they knew Tori was in foul trouble, so No. 5 (Angel Kidd) took the ball to the basket really hard. She really carried them down the stretch."
Kidd led Jacksonville with 12 points, three assists, three steals and three rebounds. Ervin added 10 points, 10 boards, three blocks and a steal. Sharon Osterbind contributed nine points and five rebounds. Virginia Poe finished with five points, 12 boards and three steals.
Darbie Rosser added eight points for Cherokee County. Chelsea Ray finished with six points.
"It was a huge game, especially for our girls," Barnes said. "A lot of those girls played last year, and they did end our season. It kind of left a little sour taste in our mouths. What I'm proud of with these girls is they accepted the challenge when I gave it to them before the game. In the past, I'd kind of shy away from big games and try not to put pressure on them. This year, I'm kind of turning that and putting pressure on them, and they're really responding to that.
"Jacksonville is probably the best team we've played this year, and I thought we played them tooth and nail."
Jacksonville boys 59, Cherokee County boys 50 (OT)
CENTRE - The Jacksonville Golden Eagles rallied from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime, then went on a 14-5 run in overtime to claim a 59-50 victory over the Cherokee County Warriors on Friday.
Des Curry led the charge for Jacksonville (4-4, 1-1 Class 4A, Area 11) with 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals. He was 10 of 11 shooting at the line.
As a team, Jacksonville connected on 21 of 25 shots from the line, including a 12-of-14 performance in overtime.
"They have two real quality players in No. 1 (Sid Thurmond) and No. 4 (Curry)," Cherokee County coach Travis Barnes said. "Their offense runs through those guys. They isolate them at the top. I thought defensively we did a pretty good job on them, but what I told our guys was it would come down to rebounding. I thought they had a little more effort rebounding than we did. It also came down to they hit shots at the end and we didn't. At the end of the game, they put free throws in. We had some good looks in overtime, but in the end we just didn't make them."
Despite the loss, Barnes was impressed with the effort of his guards, particularly their outside shooting. The Warriors (1-11, 0-2) connected on eight 3-pointers for the game. JoJo Diamond hit four treys, while Tony Pruitt sank three. Both players finished with 17 points.
"Our guard play tonight was the best we've had all season," Barnes said. "I told them that at halftime and told them that after the game, but we've got to get somebody in the post to step up. When guys get to realizing we can shoot the three pretty well, they're going to really start spreading it out and we've got to get the ball down inside. I'm trying to get some of our post players to really step up and show a presence in there, but we did shoot the ball well outside, and that kept us in the game."
Jacksonville led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter and 26-25 at halftime. Cherokee County claimed a 40-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter and held a 44-39 advantage after Pruitt sank a jumper with 5:41 remaining in the game.
The Golden Eagles went on a 6-1 run down the stretch to force overtime and had a chance to win in regulation, but Curry's jumper clanked off the rim with three seconds to go.
Thurmond tallied 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Golden Eagles. Lavonte LaCount contributed 10 points, four boards and a steal. Andrew Clingan finished with eight points, 13 boards and an assist.
Trenton Edwards added five points for the Warriors.