The Lady Purple Hurricanes remedied their ills in the fourth quarter, just in time to slice into a double-digit deficit and earn their eighth win of the season, 69-61.
Donna Enis, Cartersville head coach, could not pin down what ailed her team at the beginning of the game — even wondering if the holidays played a role in her team’s slow start.
“I felt like we started out OK in the first quarter. We just were real sluggish today. We did not play well until the last six minutes of the game,” Enis said. “Wheeler did have a good team.”
Nearly a minute into the fourth, the Lady Canes had fallen behind by 14 points. Then, Enis said, Katie O’Connor sparked the team with a steal that led to a score. Kaelyn Irby and Stefanie Will added back-to-back 3-pointers to aid Cartersville’s rally.
The Lady Canes wound up scoring 29 points in the fourth, outpacing the Lady Wildcats by 16.
“Once we got on a roll, we just kind of caught fire,” Enis said.
Irby finished with 24 points and 10 assists. Will added 16 points; Adrienne Green 14 and eight rebounds; Jazmine Baldwin 10 and nine rebounds; O’Connor four and seven rebounds; and Kea Garnigan one.
Cartersville held a slight advantage over Wheeler, 21-19, after the first quarter, but the Lady Wildcats held the Lady Canes to nine points in the ensuing quarter to lead 34-30 at the half. Cartersville fell further behind as Wheeler went ahead 48-40 at the end of the third.
The Lady Canes picked up their play in the nick of time, grabbing themselves a win they may not have gotten at this time a year ago.
“At this point last year, we were losing close games and not being able to pull out a win,” Enis said. Cartersville’s play down the stretch of last season, however, changed things as it made a run to the Elite Eight. Now, its coach said, players know what to do in crutch time.
“They had that fourth quarter. They knew what they could do. They knew what they were capable of,” Enis added. “I was real proud of the comeback today.”
Additionally, the Lady Canes are able to better mix offensive and defensive schemes this year, which helps them late in ballgames.
“That’s something that we weren’t able to do last year. We’re able to have more versatility,” Enis said.
Cartersville is scheduled to play two more games in the holiday tournament, beginning with today’s 6 p.m. matchup with Etowah. The Lady Canes close out the tournament Thursday against Creekview, with another scheduled 6 p.m. tipoff.
Enis wants her team to use its next two games to continue to get better with its Region 7B-AAA schedule getting under way Friday, Jan. 6.
“This whole tournament and [us] playing this week is [about] getting ready for region play,” she said.