TANNER—If Cherokee wanted to have any chance of defeating Tanner and advancing to Hanceville it was going to have to slow down the fast paced Rattler attack.

The Indians made a valiant effort to keep Tanner out of its game, but that still wasn’t enough as the Rattlers won 66-39 in a rout.

With the win, Tanner advances to the Northwest Regionals at Wallace State in Hanceville against Pickens County Wednesday at 5 p.m.

“We want to play in Birmingham this year,” Tanner guard Rod Byrd said. “We are playing with a lot more intensity to make sure we don’t go home first this year.”

With Cherokee playing good defense and Tanner having trouble finding its outside shot, the Rattlers found themselves in an unusual slow paced, low scoring affair in the first half.

“We had trouble getting our shots to fall in the first half,” Tanner coach Chris Whitt said. “We played really good defense though, and that enabled us to stay ahead until we found our rhythm.”

Tanner took a 23-12 lead with two minutes remaining in the second quarter when Demarcus King hit a jump shot. Cherokee cut the lead back down to nine when Austin Phillips made a pair or free throws at the other end.

Tanner closed out the half with the momentum by scoring four unanswered points — a Michael Faulk dunk and a Byrd steal and lay up to take a commanding 27-16 lead.

“It took a while to get going,” Faulk said. “I wanted to step up so we could get things going in the second half.”

Faulk got what he wanted because things got going in the second half. After a low scoring first half, both teams came out of the locker room wide open.

Donte Mason cut the Tanner lead to eight when he knocked down a three to open the second half. Mason made the front end of a one-and-one to narrow the margin to seven. Anthony Long made the score 27-24 when he made a three-pointer from the top of the arc.

King scored the first points of the second half for Tanner when he made a three at the five-minute mark.

Tanner regained the momentum by going on a 17-5 run to finish out the third quarter that began with Faulk scoring in the post and drawing a foul. Faulk made the free throw attempt to increase the Rattlers’ lead to eight. On the next inbound Byrd made an easy lay up after a Cherokee turnover. Tavoris Gray made the score 39-25 by knocking down a pair of jump shots.

 King increased the lead to 16 with a field goal. Long scored the Indians’ first points in five minutes by making a jump shot followed by a three-pointer after a Rattler turnover.

Gray made a three and Terry Jones made a jump shot to finish out the third quarter with a 45-30 Tanner lead.

“We’ve been a second half team all year,” Faulk said. “When we get the momentum shifted our way we are hard to stop.”

Tanner never let up. The Rattlers finished the game with a 21-9 nine run.

“We shot at a lot better percentage in the second half,” Whitt said. “We did a better job of attacking the basket in the second half.”

“I am really proud of the way we played defense tonight. When you get to Hanceville you have to be able to play defense to win. We are going to have to create turnovers and rebound the way we did tonight.”

Tanner created 30 Cherokee turnovers and had 42 rebounds in the win.

Byrd thinks the difference in this year’s Tanner team and the reason it will be successful in the Regional Tournament is the team balance.

“We are a very balanced team,” Byrd said. “We can beat you several different ways. Our team can shoot, rebound and play defense, and we can do it well. We also play with a lot of intensity because we are hungry.

King led the Rattlers with 13 points. Byrd added 12 and Latraius Mosley had 11.

Phillips was the Indians’ high scorer with nine points.

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