What a way for Cherokee and Eastern to start the girls' basketball season last night.

The tip-off was in an Olympic Conference American Division game. Both teams were ranked in a preseason top 10 poll and each had an Inquirer Dream Team member in the lineup.

Cherokee's Tiffany Turner and Eastern's Genevieve Okoro didn't disappoint, either.

Okoro, a 6-foot-1 senior center, pumped in a team-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the host Vikings to a 53-45 victory.

However, Eastern had to hang on in the final quarter when Cherokee, led by 6-2 Turner, drew within three points, 48-45, with 1 minute, 38 seconds remaining.

If it hadn't been for senior point guard Barrie Cohen's three-point bucket - Eastern's only basket of the period about 3 minutes into the action - the score would have been tied at 45, and the outcome may have been different.

"We were not boxing out in the fourth period, and that was giving them second and third shots," said Okoro, who spent almost half of the third period on the bench in foul trouble.

"Everyone was getting nervous. It was definitely first-game jitters."

Eastern's other big girl, 6-2 forward Morgan Halbruner, fouled out in the last quarter.

But the Chiefs, ranked No. 8, had problems of their own near the end.

"Most of our girls were in foul trouble, and we had to play softer," said Turner, who scored 18 points and corralled 10 rebounds.

Still, the Chiefs sent Cohen, Okoro and Darian Graziano to the foul line in the last 50 seconds, and they came through.

"I was open, I shot it, and it picked up the momentum," Cohen said in reference to her critical three-pointer.

Cohen, who scored 15 points, also tossed in a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter, when Eastern, ranked second, turned the tide.

Cherokee jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first period and watched as Eastern rallied in the second for a 25-18 lead at intermission.

Cherokee 12 6 15 12 - 45

Eastern 6 19 20 8 - 53

C: Farrell 8, Escudero 8, Franks 2, Roeder 9, Turner 18.

E: Graziano 8, Cohen 15, Aiken 6, Okoro 16, Halbruner 6, Hertz 2.