Cherokees post historic win in 2024

S-D goal is to make a state tourney run

By Steve Williams

The South Knoxville community has been home to many high school basketball team champions in past years, but South-Doyle, which opened in 1992, hadn’t been on that list until this season.

The Cherokees defeated Heritage 42-39 in the District 5-3A tournament championship game at Lenoir City on Feb. 20 to end that 31-year title drought.

“The team after the game was very excited,” said Coach James Jones. “But it was almost like a weight had been lifted and that their season had been validated to some degree.

“Our season had been up and down and to finally start clicking and playing our best basketball when it mattered really put a different level of confidence in our team and program.”

South-Doyle lost to Heritage in both of their two regular season games.

Jones, who is in his third season at South-Doyle and second as head coach, noted his team also reached the region finals for the first time and advanced to its first sectional game. Both of those games ended in losses, but they were steps in the right direction.

The Cherokees lost to Red Bank 68-44 in the Region 3-3A finals at East Ridge and saw their season come to an end in a 66-46 loss at Upperman in the sectionals – one win short of the state tournament.

Jones felt the Upperman game was closer than the final score indicated. “It was an eight-point game going in the fourth quarter,” he said.

South-Doyle finished with a 19-12 overall record after going 5-3 and placing second in district regular season play behind Heritage.

The Cherokees were led by Nate Thompson, a 6-3, 215-pound power forward, and T.J. Tipton, a 6-5, 210-pound forward. Both are juniors and ended the season with double-double averages of 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Derrick Elder, a senior guard, averaged 10 points and is the only player the Cherokees won’t have coming back next season.

Eigil Mikkelsen, a 6-5 junior guard who is an exchange student from Demark, is expected to be back on the team, said Coach Jones. He averaged eight points.

Other players who contributed significantly this season were Holden Lowe, a 6-3 junior forward; Marquail Patterson, a 5-10 junior guard; and Zander Wilkerson, a 5-10 junior guard.

In the historic win over Heritage, Tipton stole the ball and slammed in a tomahawk-type dunk right before the first half ended. That put an extra charge in the Cherokees.

“After that dunk, we went in and we were flying pretty high,” recalled Jones. “But we knew the game had shifted in our favor by us starting to run our stuff and play good possessions rather than trying to just play up-tempo.”

Coach Jones said the “goal” for next season is “to make a state tourney run.

“In the transitioning, we will have six seniors and more experience.”