The Lady Canes lost three times to the Lady Phoenix last season, costing them the region championship and the top seed in the state tournament.
As a result, Cartersville’s fourth-quarter comeback win Tuesday against Sonoraville carried much greater significance than a typical early December game.
The Lady Canes lost by an average of nearly 30 points per game a year ago, including a 77-35 loss in the Region 5-AAA tournament. As a result, a positive outcome was needed Tuesday to prove this year would not be like the last.
Understanding the importance of the game, senior standout Kaelyn Irby did what great players do: she willed her team to victory against a tough opponent in an important game.
Irby scored 16 of her team’s 20 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 36 in the game.
Irby scored three baskets in the first 2:30 of the final period, including two contested 3s, to help keep the Lady Canes in the game. In total, she had eight points in the first five possessions of the quarter.
After sitting Irby for roughly 1:30 in order to rest for the home stretch, Cartersville head coach Cindy Moore put her point guard back in the game. She immediately scored with 3:50 remaining as she drove the lane and sidestepped a defender to tie Sonoraville at 56.
The game was tied at 58 when Irby once again attacked the basket and proved too quick for Sonoraville’s defense. Irby’s bucket put the Lady Canes up 40-38 with 1:10 left in the game, and she was not finished.
During Cartersville’s next possession, Irby made a long pass through the teeth of the Sonoraville defense to an open Maya Jones, who converted on the layup to put the Lady Canes up 62-58.
Irby scored yet another basket seconds later as she once again drove to the hoop. She finished the game with two free throws to put the Lady Phoenix away and give Cartersville a 66-60 victory.
In the end, Irby scored or assisted on four baskets in the last five Cartersville possessions of the game after coming off the bench for the last 3:50.
“Obviously it’s a tremendous win, [Sonoraville] being the No. 1 team in the region and for us to knock them off here at the Storm Center,” Cartersville head coach Cindy Moore said after the game Tuesday night. “It’s a great feeling. Kae is just ... there are no words.”
“She’s a very good player, one of the better ones I’ve seen in the 14 years I’ve been here,” Cass coach Jamie Horton said after Irby and the Lady Canes defeated his Cass team on Dec. 7. “When she wants to, she can take over a game”
Tuesday’s top performers
Sammmie Frazier — Adairsville
Frazier continues to rack up double-doubles. He now has five in just six games, including 17 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday in a 52-48 victory over North Murray.
Tyler Washington — Adairsville
The senior had 17 points of his own to go along with six assists Tuesday. He is averaging over 18 points per game and has had three assists in each of his last three games.
Darius Thrower — Excel
The sophomore continues to excel as he put in 21 against LaFayette and has averaged 24.5 points per game in his last six.
Miriam Hibbard — Excel
Hibbard hit what would turn out to be the eventual game-winning shot Tuesday against LaFayette as she broke a 58-58 tie with less than 18 seconds remaining in the game. Thanks to Hibbard’s efforts, Excel won the game 62-59. Hibbard had 20 points on the game.
Andrea Taylor — Excel
The Junior led the Lady Eagles with 26 points and has led the team in scoring each of its six games so far this season.
Ryan Davis — Cartersville
Cartersville’s starters played limited minutes in the second half Tuesday, but Davis still finished the game with five steals, eight assists and seven rebounds. As the point guard, Davis was able to get his teammates involved in the offense as the Canes scored 87 points.
A.J. Mosby — Cartersville
Mosby scored 19 points to lead the Canes against Sonoraville and finished 9-for-13 from the field.
Corey Tobin — Cartersville
Tobin scored 17 points Tuesday and is now averaging 21.3 points per game to lead Cartersville.
Hunter Benham - Cartersville
The senior does all the little things to help Cartersville win, including rebound. He had eight Tuesday to go along with his 16 points.
Kelsey Wright — Cass
Wright had 13 points in the game and she came through when it mattered the most. She hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie region Rival Dalton and send the game into overtime. The Lady Colonels would go on to defeat Dalton in overtime Tuesday night by a score 72-67.
Rejiyah Burley — Cass
Burley has stood out for the Lady Colonels during the first eight games this season. She already has had games in which she scored 27 and 25 points, but she added a 22-point game to her resume Tuesday against Dalton.
—The Daily Tribune News Sports Editor David Royal contributed to this report.